Tag: UNA

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.

JSU renews old time rivalry with University of North Alabama

Josie Howell, Sports Editor

In 2018, it was announced that old time rivals, Jacksonville State University and the University of North Alabama, would once again play each other in football. This is a rivalry that dates back to 1949 and has often times been compared to the longstanding Alabama-Auburn rivalry. After not playing for two years, both teams came to a four-year agreement that both players and fans are excited about. This is a game that has always seen a 20,000 plus crowd and the same can be expected for the 2019 season as JSU hosts UNA.

This new contract between the two teams comes after UNA switched from playing in the Division II Gulf South Conference to now playing in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision, the same conference that Jacksonville State is a part of. 

“The two times we’ve played them, was the largest crowds that we have ever had. So, we need to play them. It’s the old south rivalry. You bring those back and people pack it out,” said John Grass, JSU head football coach. “They have a great historical program and you’ll have a 20,000 plus crowd there, so that game will be a lot of fun.”

One of North Alabama’s last game against an FCS opponent was against Jacksonville State in 2016, with a 31-12 loss. The last time the Lions won over Jacksonville State was in 2003 with a score of 28-16. The lions had a 13-1 season that ended with a loss in the semifinals of the Division II playoffs. JSU, on the other hand, went on to win the Ohio Valley Conference Championship.

The first matchup between the two teams will be at Jacksonville State’s Burgess Snow Stadium on Sept. 21, 2019. The Gamecocks will then travel to Florence to take on the Lions at Braly Stadium on September 12, 2020. The two schools will meet against in Jacksonville in 2021 and then once again in Florence in 2022.The 2020 Matchup will be JSU’s first game in Florence since winning the 1992 Division II National Championship at Braly Stadium.

The Lions have returning starters from last year that will have an impact on the matchup between the two teams. One of those players is starting quarterback Christian Lopez. According to the UNA athletics website, Lopez threw for 2,184 yards and 14 touchdowns for the 2018 season. He also was able to rush a total of five touchdowns. 

UNA’s running back, Terence Humphrey, also played an integral role in last year’s season and is also expected to make a huge impact for the Lions this season. According to UNA’s athletics page, Humphrey is one of UNA’s leading rushers, who carried the ball 67 times and accounted for 290 yards in the 2018 season and with a career total of 467 yards, with an average of 4.5 yards per carry.

For the Lion’s defense, K.J. Smith will play a major role. Smith played in all 10 games in 2018. He finished third on his team in tackles with 49 total tackles. Smith also accounted for three tackles for loss of six yards, three interceptions that he returned 79 yards and five pass break-ups.

One of JSU’s main players that the team and fans hope to see a lot out of for not just this game, but for the entire season, is Clemson transfer and starting quarterback Zerrick Cooper. Cooper accounted for well over 3,000 passing yards in the 2018 season and had an impressive 251 first pass completions. 

Jacksonville State University will host the University of North Alabama at Burgess Snow Field September 21 at 6 p.m. To stay up to date on what is happening with the JSU gamecocks football team, you can follow them on twitter at “JSUGamecocksFB” and on Facebook at Jacksonville State Gamecocks.

Photo courtesy of JSU