Jacksonville State couldn’t overcome their mistakes Saturday at Eastern Illinois and fell for the second time in conference play.
The Gamecocks seemingly had a solid chance to win with plenty of opportunities, but failed to capitalize on enough of those chances.
After a bad punt by EIU, senior QB Marques Ivory and the JSU offense started their first drive in great field position at EIU’s 45.
The first play was a 15 yard pass to Trey Smith followed by Washuan Ealey rushing 27 yards to the three yard line. Two plays later Ealey punched it in for a score in what was his best game so far this season.
The Gamecock defense played well for the most part, very well early on considering they were going against a Walter Payton
candidate in Jimmy Garappolo.
After the Panthers gave the ball back to JSU, the Gamecocks drove down the field but the drive ended when Griffen Thomas’ 48 yard field goal missed wide right.
After DaMarcus James had a 20 yard rush go inside the five, Coty Blanchard tossed a short touchdown pass to TE Denzel Cheeks, giving JSU a 14-0 lead.
EIU drove down the field a put a touchdown on the board and quickly followed it up with a pick-six off Ivory to tie the game at 14.
As time expired from the first half, the Panthers hit a 43 yard field goal and took a 17-14 lead into the locker rooms.
On the opening kick of the second half, freshman Telvin Brown had his second huge kick return in two weeks with a 66 yard return, starting the Gamecocks deep in Panther territory. Once JSU was close to the goal line Ealey ran it in for his second score on the ground.
With just over a minute to go in the third, Griffen Thomas lined up for another field goal attempt but this time it was blocked.
On the first play of the fourth quarter the Panthers ran the ball in to take a 24-21 lead. The Gamecocks again marched down the field but failing to put the ball in the endzone, Jacksonville State had to settle for another field goal, which was proving difficult Saturday with 20 mph winds gusting, and again Thomas’ kick missed wide.
The Gamecocks found new life with just under ten minutes to go in the game. JSU blocked EIU’s punt, giving the Gamecocks the ball at the 11. It took only two plays for Ealey to acquire his third rushing TD on the day and give JSU a 28-24 lead.
With 6:00 remaining Eastern Illinois put their best drive of the day together led by Garappolo going 80 yards capped by a 15 yard touchdown pass that gave EIU a 31-28 lead with 3:43 remaining.
On JSU’s ensuing drive, Ivory was picked off again, but the Jacksonville State defense held strong when EIU went for it on fourth and one to melt the clock. The Gamecocks got the ball back with 1:17 on their own 27.
With 42 seconds on the clock JSU had moved into field goal range and after a few incomplete passes JSU ran a final play with 25 ticks left on the clock. Ivory scrambled backwards before trying to htrow the ball away, but the pass was caught by a Gamecock who was immediately tackled inbounds. With no timeouts the clock ran out before JSU could spike the ball or send their field goal team out.
The finish was eerily similar to the EKU game last year when poor clock management blew any chance to even tie the game at the end.
Washaun Ealey led the ground game for JSU with 149 yards and three TDs. Coty Blanchard threw the lone TD pass while
Ivory struggled with three interceptions.