Tag: Football

Jax State falls to Austin Peay

Garrett Sanders, Sports Correspondent

This past Saturday, the Jacksonville State University football team traveled to Clarkesville, Tennessee to play Austin Peay. Unfortunately, the Gamecocks left Tennessee defeated.

The Gamecocks knew the importance of this game, and they would be tested early. Anything can happen on any given Saturday, and this was no different.

Austin Peay came out firing from all directions and the Gamecocks defense could not stop the Governor’s offensive attack. Missed tackles, poor execution and mental mistakes would be the downfall for JSU.

However, the defense was not the only group that lacked strength. Offensively, turning over the ball was the memo for the Gamecocks, and Austin Peay took clear advantage of this.

Despite the 33-52 loss, there were some good performances that prevailed in this matchup. While Zerrick Cooper threw a total of three interceptions, he also continued his streak of throwing a touchdown pass for an eighteenth consecutive game.

Wide-receiver Josh Pearson has had an awe-inspiring campaign throughout his time at JSU, and this particular matchup was a career-making day. Pearson added two receiving touchdowns to his record for a total of seven touchdowns in just five matchups, and 24 career total touchdowns.

Pearson’s first touchdown during Saturday’s game came on a 16-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter from his counterpart Cooper. This tied the touchdown record holder for the JSU all-time receiving touchdown record. One more touchdown and Pearson would be in the JSU history books.

With less than two minutes left in the game, JSU had the game loss well in hand. However, the Gamecocks did manage to get a drive going. At the three-yard line in the red zone, Pearson knew it was now or next week to break that record.

Being the fantastic slot receiver Pearson is, he beat the Governor’s corner on a perfect slant and Cooper zipped the ball to him. With an ideal throw and ideal catch, Pearson came through with a touchdown for the Gamecocks.

With that run to the endzone, Pearson officially broke a record and reached a milestone in his career. But for Pearson, it wasn’t about the record; it was about trying to get better as a team moving forward from the loss.

“We have a lot of people that are living off last year and the freshmen season in 2015. We haven’t made a name for ourselves and we have to do that first,” said Pearson during the postgame press conference. “We have to win the ball on both sides of the line. It’s bad when we only have 62 yards rushing. We have to change our approach and not look at records. We have to go out there and play Jacksonville State football, and that is the problem, we are not doing that. We are focusing on yesterday and last year. We have to attack each day and get better.”

The Gamecocks have realized that they must get more physical in practice. Head Coach John Grass made that clear during Monday’s practice.

“They just kicked our rear ends. That’s all you can say. It was just a poor performance everywhere,” said Grass. “We will be very physical this week in practice. Until we win the line of scrimmage, that is what we will do. That is the way this program was built and we will get it back to that point.”

This Saturday, the Gamecocks will host the Tennessee State Tigers. Tennessee State is 1-4, but John Grass feels that the Tigers can easily be overlooked.

“It does not get any easier this week because I feel like we are playing the most talented team that we have played all year. This is the best 1-4 (FCS) team in the country with Tennessee State. They could easily be 4-1 because they are a good football team. As always, we have to get ready to play,” said Grass.

Fans can catch the game at Burgess-Snow Field at 6 p.m. The game will also be broadcasted live on 91.9 WLJS and on the ESPN+ app.

Pearson breaks JSU touchdown record

Garrett Sanders, Sports Correspondent

Josh Pearson is someone who screams inspiration. Through hard times in life, he endured hardship and found a way out of it to make something of himself. It all started in the fall semester of 2015.

Pearson was a star athlete from Decatur looking for a school to further his academic and athletic career. He chose Jacksonville State University and with a full-ride athletic scholarship, he secured place on the football team. Pearson thought he had it made, but that’s when the immaturity of a college freshman hit Pearson. 

Pearson ended up putting too much focus on other things rather than being a student-athlete first. That’s when things came to a halt. He was deemed ineligible for the 2016 college football season. Pearson ended up losing part of his scholarship as well. The reality of life then hit Pearson, and he realized he needed to change his life around.

After days of studying to 3 a.m., making good grades and doing good deeds around the community of Jacksonville, Pearson regained confidence in himself, which resulted in him being deemed eligible for the 2017 football season. Pearson not only excelled in the classroom as a full-time student, but he succeeded on the gridiron as well.

While only playing in one game in 2017, Pearson found his way up the depth chart in the receivers’ room – and in 2018 things began to skyrocket for Pearson.

Being a redshirt Junior for the Gamecocks didn’t put any pressure on Pearson. Pearson blossomed in the offense with his quarterback counterpart, Zerrick Cooper. The two have an on-field relationship that is like none other. Pearson was known for his quick speed in the slot and could run routes to perfection, which upped his game on the field.

Seeing Pearson’s 67 catches and 1,123 yards in the 2018 season was very impressive. But the thing that is special about his talent on the field is his ability to get in the endzone.

Pearson has excelled at catching and running routes, but if there was one thing that stands out about him, it’s that he is a touchdown machine. Pearson’s 2018 season ended with a total of 17 total touchdowns on his record, averaging up to more than one touchdown per game. In 2019, he only continued to be that special weapon for the Gamecocks in the endzone.

With the Gamecocks already five games into the season, Pearson has seen plenty of action on the field. But last week in Clarkesville, Tennessee, he had an extraordinary moment in his football career, one which no one can take away from him.

Pearson, who was coming into the game with 22 career touchdowns during his time at JSU, only needed one more to tie the all-time career touchdown record for wide receivers for the Gamecocks. The record was formerly held by JSU alumnus Joey Hamilton, with 23 career touchdowns.

Pearson seized his chance to tie this record during the game against Austin Peay. With his partner in crime, Cooper, throwing the ball his way, Pearson ran into the end zone from 16 yards out to score a much needed touchdown, and to tie Hamilton’s record. 

Pearson was not done, however.

Pearson and the Gamecocks were down big to Austin Peay late in the game. But with less than two minutes left in the game, Pearson wanted to edge the competition closer and score, and he had a chance.

Being three yards away in the slot, all Pearson had to do was find a way to get open and beat his man in coverage. Cooper snapped the ball and Pearson did what he does best, beat his man, ran the perfect route, caught the ball and scored.

The three-yard go-ahead touchdown broke Joey Hamilton’s, and now Josh Pearson stands alone at 24 career touchdowns. But for Pearson, he just wants to get better with his teammates and win a national title.

“It is nice to have but it was hard to enjoy it after the game,” said Pearson when asked what he thought about breaking the touchdown record. “It’s a great record to have, but it is no fun when you lose because it is a team sport.”

With all that Pearson has accomplished throughout his time at JSU, the sky is the limit for him. The redshirt senior is currently majoring in exercise science and wellness and would like to pursue a career in being a strength and conditioning coach if football does not work out long term.

Jax State defeats rival UNA

Garrett Sanders, Sports Correspondent

Momentum for the Jacksonville State University Gamecocks football team was replenished after moving back into the Top 10 in the FCS Top 25 Poll. For JSU, they looked to continue the hype by beating rival North Alabama.

North Alabama and Jacksonville State have a long traditional rivalry. However, after playing each other 46 times since 1949 but only three times since 1991, something had to change.

“UNA and Jacksonville State has always been a healthy rivalry,” said JSU head coach John Grass. 

The crowd of 21,976 people was evidence of what this rivalry means to the two programs. The two programs are scheduled to meet for three more seasons.

Getting the first points on the board was crucial. JSU held on to the ball for over seven minutes and converted a fourth down. This possession set up JSU for a scoring opportunity.

Zerrick Cooper threw a pass down the right sideline to Josh Pearson. The ball traveled in the air and ricocheted off a North Alabama corner. Pearson was on the ball at the right time. The bounce of the ball landed in Pearson’s hands for six. With that score and successful extra point from Bryant Wallace, the Gamecocks took the lead.

UNA then put up an eight-play drive to set up a one-yard touchdown run from Terence Humphrey. However, the Lions kicker Joe Gurley missed the extra point. With that, the Gamecocks still had control of the lead 7-6.

With the next offensive possession for the Gamecocks, the offense moved the ball down with ease. With Cooper under center, Greenery took off and burst through and slipped off a couple of Lions tacklers for six. Greene’s touchdown was followed up by yet another missed extra point.

Bryant Wallace, however, would be given a second chance. After a muffed kickoff from the Lions and a poorly executed effort to pounce on the ball, JSU had excellent field position.

Wallace then connected on a 27-yarder to put the Gamecocks up by 10. That’s when the game for the Lions quickly turned away from them.

The Lions had a quick possession which resulted in a punt giving back the Gamecocks possession of the ball.

Cooper executed a perfect play-action pass and threw the ball deep down the field. Pearson caught the ball in the stride and ran with the ball into the end zone for six with an extra point added from Bryant Wallace. Afterwards, the game was back and forth, producing no points for some time.

North Alabama eventually put up a drive that was set up to be a sure score. However, JSU got the play they needed to prevent UNA from scoring. Lions quarterback, Christian Lopez, snapped the ball and forced the ball into triple coverage.

Traco Williams ball hawked to the bell and intercepted the pass.

The Lions and Gamecocks exchanged possessions throughout the third quarter. After a dull part of the third quarter, there was finally some excitement. However, that excitement wasn’t for the home crowd.

North Alabama consistently moved the chains and had moved into the red zone. Christian Lopez then connected to his favorite target, Andre Little, on a fifteen-yard score. Joe Gurley missed the extra point.

The Lions later got going with a decent drive. However, facing a fourth down in Gamecock territory, Joe Gurley for the Lions had to kick.

Missing two extra points, it was evident that Gurley was not having a great game. The Lions had a chance to make the game a one-score game. However, with a long field goal of 48 yards, Gurley missed.

That’s when Zerrick Cooper and Josh Pearson knew it was time to put the game to an end. The first catch was a first down for twelve yards on a stick route.

Cooper then executed a perfect play-action pass, and Pearson was open on the slant. Pearson caught the ball, and the rest was history. Fifty-three yards to the end zone for six. As a result, the end of the game would be a Gamecock victory of 30-12.

“This was a good win. Give credit to UNA for having a good program as they always have, going back to our old rivalry game. This was a solid win for our guys,” said Grass.

Josh Pearson had a total of seven receptions for 149 yards and three touchdowns. It was apparent he would be more-heavily covered.

“Teams have definitely been covering me more this year. In order to be the best, you have to play like you’re the best.” Pearson commented.

The Gamecocks will be traveling up to Clarksville, Tennessee to take on the Austin Peay Governors Saturday, Sept. 28 at 2 p.m. Fans can tune in to the game on 91.9 WLJS to listen to Mike Parris or watch it live on ESPN+ this Saturday.

Hot Take: JSU v. Eastern Washington

Garrett Sanders, Sports Correspondent

After a controversial hype video and an unexpected loss, the JSU Gamecocks Football team got off to a rough start. However, after a much-needed win over the Chattanooga Mocs, the Gamecocks had confidence going into Week three. However, it wouldn’t be an easy task to handle.

Coming into town was a top-five FCS team was the Eastern Washington Eagles. They too had a lot to play for as well. After an expected loss to the Washington Huskies in Week one, the Eagles dismantled Lindenwood.

This game was a must-win for both teams. The winner would have a chance to salvage their season. Meanwhile, the loser would have much ground to make up. For the caliber of these two teams, it was set up to be a dog fight to the very end.

The Eagles were a team that could point up points in a heartbeat. That sums up what happened from the opening kickoff. After a series of perfectly executed plays on offense and special teams, the Gamecocks were on their heels on defense. However, so was the Eagles defense.

The Gamecocks didn’t lose their rhythm from practice. JSU knew the Eagles had a weakness on defense. While the dink and dunk pass plays don’t usually work against elite secondaries, the Gamecocks knew they could use it to their advantage. That’s where the quick slant to the slot receiver came into play all game.

Eastern Washington had a game plan of their own though. That was to play up-tempo offense and pound the rock against the Gamecock defense. Then when the Gamecocks had to expect the run, the Eagles would execute a picture-perfect deep play-action pass to find their receivers open down the field.

For a while, there was no defense from the Gamecocks at all. However, just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did. A turnover on special teams from the Gamecocks would be crucial in the first quarter. With a superb field position to play with, the Gamecocks defense could not stop the Eagles offensive attack from getting in the end zone. Just like that, the Eagles were up 28-7.

While the Eagles were causing turnovers and getting three and outs in the first quarter, in the second quarter, the Gamecocks finally woke up and came to play. Senior Marlon Bridges stepped up in a big way for the Gamecock defense and took matters into his own hands.

The Eagles were driving the ball down the field to put this game out of reach. However, then, something happened. A pick-six! That made it a two-possession game. That’s when all the momentum shifted over to the Gamecocks side.

JSU’s defense got better as the game got on. However, there was one area the Gamecocks could not figure out how to stop. That was on their third-down defensive play. It seemed as if every time the Eagles were on third down, the Gamecocks would find some way to stay on the field. Despite everything, the Gamecocks still had a chance to make this game close and within reach.

Down by two touchdowns in half, Coach John Grass had to come up with ways to adjust to stop the Eagles on third down. Coach Grass knew what he had to do, which was to call defensive blitzes.

In the second half, the Eagles could still move the ball at will at some points in the game. However, when JSU’s defense needed to step up in a big way, they did. Third down was the charm for the Gamecocks defense in the second half.

While the defense continued to step up their game, the Gamecocks offense stepped up a notch as well. Wearing down the Eagles defense was the mojo for the Gamecocks in the fourth quarter. If there was an advantage the Gamecocks had that the Eagles didn’t, it was their conditioning. It was apparent the Eagles were tired.

Usually, teams don’t have this problem. However, for Eastern Washington, the heat was a significant factor for them in this game. JSU has the benefit of practicing in the August summer heat while Eastern Washington doesn’t have nearly the hot climate to deal with in their summer workouts. This difference would be a vital key to the game.

Another factor for the Gamecocks in this game was that Eastern Washington got too conservative in their play calling. The Eagles went away with what worked for them. Combine the poor play-calling with also the urgency the Gamecocks needed in the fourth quarter; it was a recipe for a comeback.

The Gamecocks used the conservative play-calling from the Eagles to their advantage. Sacks, a blocked punt, careless penalties, and a turnover helped the propel the Gamecocks to a chance to win the game.

Down by 17 points, fans at Burgess-Snow Field still were optimistic about a comeback. The crowd did a fantastic job being a home-field advantage for the Gamecocks. While Gamecock Nation did their part, it was up to the Gamecocks to do their part.

The offense stepped up and scored points, and the defense did their job by stopping the Eagles offensive attack. This effort ultimately led up to the Gamecocks scoring 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and taking the lead with 55 seconds left.

That’s when everything collapsed for the Eagles. The Gamecocks defense found a way to finish off the game with a turnover. That would ultimately end the game with a victory in JSU’s pocket.

When you talk about classic finishes in Jacksonville State Football history, this must go down as one of the better finishes in Gamecock history. Coach John Grass certainly got a signature win in this game. Hopefully, this will be just a glimpse of what is to come when it comes to the FCS Playoffs. Who knows? JSU might see Eastern Washington again!

This win gives the Gamecocks a 2-1 record heading into this Saturday’s game against in-state rival, North Alabama. North Alabama has a long history of being one of JSU’s biggest rivals, so you know this is going to be a fantastic game to watch.

Both football programs are at the peak of their prime. If you want to watch a hard-fought classic rivalry, this game is for you!

Photo courtesy of Matt Reynolds/JSU

JSU stomps Eastern Washington

Ashley FinersonSports Correspondent

The Jacksonville Gamecocks played a tough football game against Eastern Washington that ended with most of the fans on their feet. Jacksonville State was able to come back from a 21-point deficit for the first time since the historic win against Ole Miss in 2010.

The first quarter was overall a rough one for the Gamecocks. It started when Washington’s Dre Dorton scored a touchdown on a 90 yard return after just the kick-off. After this setback, JSU still wasn’t able to score and was forced to punt. Once Washington regained possession of the ball, Andrew Boston was able to score a touchdown from a pass by Eric Barriere. 

Once JSU regained possession of the ball, Jamari Hester was finally able to put the Gamecocks on the board with a touchdown from a pass by quarterback Zerrick Cooper. Though Washington ended up scoring two more times thanks to Jayson Williams and Jayce Gilder who both scored a touchdown from a pass by their quarterback. This ended the first quarter 28-7 with Washington leading and things not looking great for the Gamecocks.

At the beginning of the second quarter, JSU took action when Marlon Bridges intercepted Eric Barriere’s pass and scored an eye-catching 67-yard touchdown. Bryant Wallace was able to complete the field goal attempt for the extra point. After a failed attempt by Washington to score, JSU’s Josh Person was able to put another touchdown on the board with a pass from Zerrick Cooper along with Bryant Wallace once again successfully gaining an extra point. 

Washington eventually gained possession of the ball and were the last to score in the second quarter with a touchdown made by Jayson Williams on a pass from Eric Barriere. The second quarter ended with the score 35-21 and Washington still in the lead, but the Gamecocks now have a chance to come back for the win.

At the start of the third quarter, JSU was able to score a touchdown by running back Michael Matthews with a pass from Zerrick Cooper and an extra point added by Bryant Wallace. Washington fought to keep the lead by scoring twice more, one with a failed attempt at an extra point. T. Limu-Jones was then able to bring in another touchdown with a pass from Eric Barriere and Seth Harrison adding the extra point. The third quarter ended with the score 45-28 and Washington still ahead and the Gamecocks not ready to give up.

The fourth quarter belonged to JSU. In the beginning of the quarter, Zerrick Cooper scored a touchdown with a 15 yard rush. After a back and forth attempt to score again, JSU was once again successful when Michael Matthews scored a touchdown from a 3 yard rush and Bryant Wallace again earning them once again an extra point.

Right after blocking Washington from gaining any points at only 59 seconds left in the game, running back Michael Matthews and Bryant Wallace pulled JSU into the lead with a score of 42-45. Finally, cornerback Yul Gowdy intercepted a pass from Eric Barriere bringing in the miraculous game-winning touchdown, ending the fourth quarter with a score of 49-45. JSU pulled off their second win of the football season. Afterwards, JSU jumped seven spots in the FCS polls ranking in the top ten and knocking Eastern Washington out of their No. 4 spot.

“It was a big win, high rank team, going to move JSU up in the ranking and it felt pretty good to win in a comeback,” said JSU safety Charles Crawford. When asked what he felt the biggest accomplishment of the game was, he said that it was staying in the game, not getting their heads down and finishing the game off with a win. 

“Emotions were everywhere, but it feels so great, so awesome to come out on top after fighting so hard to win the game,” said defensive end TaCorie Russell. “It wasn’t looking good for them in a lot of spots of the game, just coming out on top in the end was the biggest accomplishment the team had.

“They played with and coached with a lot of class and we were fortunate enough to come out of it with a win. We talked about it all week about getting it to the fourth quarter and we felt like we would have an advantage in the fourth quarter being at home and we did,” said head coach John Grass. “I think a big turning point in that game was when Marlon Bridges intercepts the ball and runs it back. We started chipping away at the lead. We made the plays down the stretch to give us a chance to win the game. I am very proud of our guys after we hung around after that first quarter and we responded.”

To stay up to date with the JSU football team, follow them on Twitter at “JSUgamecocksfb” and on Facebook at Jacksonville State Gamecocks. The Gamecocks will play at home this Saturday at Burgess Snow Field on September 21 at 6 p.m.

Photo courtesy of Matt Reynolds/JSU