Last Saturday, Jacksonville State (5-2) fell in a marquee matchup of two tough OVC teams to Tennessee State (6-1) on a Homecoming that didn’t end the way many had hoped.
A strong crowd of over 19,000 saw the Gamecocks welcome in the #23 ranked team in the nation to Burgess-Snow Field.
Donned in all red uniforms for just the second time since joining the OVC in 2003, JSU put the first points on the board early in the first with a 33-yard Griffin Thomas field goal that gave the Gamecocks a 3-0 lead.
Tennessee State responded with a 70-yard touchdown drive that ended when TSU quarterback Michael German hit his top target all day, A.C. Lenard, for a five yard TD pass. Before the end of the first, Thomas added his second field goal of the day to make it 7-6.
JSU seemed to be handling the stiff defense in the early part, but it quickly became a challenge to move the ball consistently.
Tennessee State had two scores in the second and went to halftime leading 21-6. The Gamecocks came out a held their ground defensively in the third and tried to fight back closing in on the fourth.
Following an injury to starter Max Shortell on a tackle, Eli Jenkins played most of the second half.
With a few minute to go in the third backed deep inside JSU territory, Jenkins took a snap and rolled right before looking back left and heaving the ball toward the home sideline to a wide open Markis Merrill who went 76 yards before being dragged down just before the goal line.
Merrill stayed down after the tackle. The medical staff soon worked quickly as the sophomore from St. Augustine, FL. was attended to for an extended time as the game came to a haul just before the final period. Merrill was taken off the field on a stretcher with his legs wrapped tightly and left the stadium via ambulance. Maybe inspired by a few fallen teammates, the Gamecocks made a game of it after DaMarcus James punched the ball in to bring the score to 21-13 going into the fourth.
On TSU’s next possession, JSU backed the Tigers up and then forced a fumble on third down that resulted in a safety making it a 21-15 game with the Gamecocks set to receive the ball.
JSU was unable to move the ball on the following possession and the Tigers put up a field goal that made any chances of a comeback scarce. Late in the game TSU would add a final touchdown that gave the final score, 31-15.
Following a series of strong games offensively, the Gamecocks struggled mightily against the Tigers accumulating a stunned just 21 yards on the ground between James, Jenkins, and Troymaine Pope.
The yardage was the lowest rushing for JSU since prior to 2000.
The Gamecocks get a bye week to regroup and then face a more favorable schedule in the near future facing Tennessee Tech and Austin Peay following back-to-back grueling games against ranked opponents.