Jacksonville State made a statement over the weekend with a win in Martin, TN over then #22 ranked UT-Martin at Graham Hardy Stadium.
The weather was far from perfect as a storm front moved through, however, it was the action on the field, rather than in the sky, that really dampened the home crowd’s Homecoming spirits.
UT-Martin (3-2) sported all-orange uniforms for what is believed to be the first time in school history as they welcomed the Gamecocks for Homecoming. The party turned quickly when JSU struck early on a three play drive that covered 69 yards in less than a minute.
Starter Max Shortell hit Markis Merrill for a 46 yards gain that went to the Skyhawk’s 23, and DaMarcus James would carry the ball twice more to cover the remaining yards for the opening score.
Later in the first, Griffin Thomas made the first of his two field goals on the day. Thomas would finish 2/2 with makes of 38 and 35 yards making his season total 14/18 which leads the country with 2.3 made field goals per game.
UTM’s Dylan Favre couldn’t be held down all day and found a receiver in the endzone to make it 10-7 at the end of the first. It looked as if the Skyhawks would take the lead following a punt return inside JSU’s 10, but the following snap went over Favre’s head and had to recovered for a 20 yard loss. JSU held UTM to a field goal tying the game at 10.
In the final six minutes of the half Jax State regained a lead after Shortell threw two touchdown passes to Spencer Goffigan and then Merrill with just seconds remaining before halftime.
The teams exchanged field goals and Favre threw his second TD of the game in the third to send the game to the final quarter with the Gamecocks leading 27-20. With 9:53 remaining JSU hoped James’ 1-yard TD run would secure the win, but it was the following possession when James broke free for a 50 yard score while trying to melt the clock that the Gamecocks iced the game with a 41-20 lead. After sending in a backup QB, the Skyhawks found the end zone with just a few ticks remaining to make the final score 41-27.
The Skyhawks gained 10 more first downs than JSU and threw for 150 more passing yards than the visitors, but ultimately Shortell’s 14-25 for 226 yards and two TDs along with James’ three scores and near 200 yards of rushing that pushed the Gamecocks out on top. James entered the JSU record books as the first player to ever have three career three-touchdown games rushing, and James has done the feat in three consecutive games pushing his season TD total to 10 which ranks fourth in the nation and first in the OVC.
Freshman Josh Barge had 114 yards to lead all receivers.
The defense was strong all day and made a team that had previously only lost on the blue turf of Boise State look out of sync most of the day. Pierre Warren and Jermaine Hough led the way with nine tackles each while Dustin Gayton and Barry Stafford each tallied a sack and Sean Watson came down with two tackles for loss.
The win pushed Jacksonville State to 5-1 and was the 515th win in program history.
Now the attentions turns to Tennessee State as the Gamecocks prepare for their own homecoming. JSU has a 54-11-2 record on Homecoming games but faces a tough challenge in the newly 23rd ranked Tigers, however, JSU also entered the coaches poll this week and sits just one spot back at 24.