The game was circled on the calendar back in the preseason and Saturday Jacksonville State University (8-2) showed just how ready they were for the Eastern Kentucky Colonels (6-4) in a 68-10 beat down at Burgess-Snow Field.
Entering the game EKU was coming off their own impressive win, blanking Tennessee State 44-0, but the Gamecocks saw a chance to put themselves in the FCS playoff discussion and would not be denied.
Senior Griffin Thomas kicked off the onslaught, literally, booting a 52-yard field goal in the first to set a new career long and match the JSU school record for longest made kick. Thomas was solid all night as has been the case all season as he continues kicking a record setting pace. He finished the night 2/2, giving him 20 made field goals on the season, just two behind the single season record of 22 set by Gavin Hallford in 2007 with at least two games remaining.
However, unlike earlier games in the season where Thomas’ clutch field goals made the difference, this night would be a different story as the Gamecocks dominated the Colonels in every facet of the game from start to finish.
EKU head coach Dean Hood, the 2008 OVC Coach of the Year, said after the game on EKU’s postgame report,“We didn’t execute in any phase of the game, offense, defense, special teams,” and finished with simply, “most embarrassing thing I’ve ever been a part of.”
Maybe embarrassing had something to do with the outcome. Last season in Richmond, KY., the Gamecocks were sent home with their tails between their legs following a 51-21 shellacking by the Colonels, and no one forgets two seasons ago back here in Jacksonville when a 48-24 lead with seven minutes to go turned into a horrific 52-48 loss for JSU.
The Colonels had won three straight previous meetings and are still the only OVC team that Jax State does not have a winning record against in the series matchups. The Gamecocks had heard it all… and were tired of it.
For the first time in weeks JSU had a complete backfield with every quarterback and running back healthy.
Running back Troymaine Pope scored the first touchdown of the game with &:37 left to play in the first, but lead back DaMarcus James would not go unseen and pounded in his own score to make it 16-3 after one quarter. James would finish with 88 yards rushing and two scores tying the single season touchdown mark in school history with his 19th score of the year.
The musical chairs of who starts at quarterback was apparently back around to Max Shortell after backup Eli Jenkins had started two weeks before and Kyle West the week prior. With rested legs under him, Shortell completed 14 of 20 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown.
Jenkins went 2 for 3 passing for 14 yards, but on seven carries gained 120 yards and scored three touchdowns including a 71 yard scamper up the middle early in the second, 23-3.
The scoring wasn’t all offensive for the Gamecocks even though EKU probably found most of it to be very offensive. Special teams had solid returns all night, and the momentum of the entire night may have begun when linebacker Ben Endress came through with a huge blocked punt early in the game that led to JSU’s first score.
Less than a minute after Jenkins’ long touchdown run, the Gamecock defense stripped EKU’s quarterback and senior Ketrick Wolfe pounced on the loose ball for another score as Burgess-Snow Field erupted, 30-3 with over nine minute to play before halftime.
A scary play occurred in the first half when receiver Telvin Brown was going in for a score and began to lose control of the ball, as he went to regain control he was hit hard and fell directly to the ground, where he lay while the medical team rushed out. After a delay Brown was carted off the field just as receiver Markis Merrill was during JSU’s last home game three weeks ago.
In postgame coach Clark said once he got out to Brown on the field he felt better about him than he had before and didn’t indicate
the injury was as severe as Merrill’s was. It’s the third Gamecocks receiver to go down after Dalton Screws has missed recent game with a broken collarbone.
After Thomas’ buzzer beating field goal just before the half made it a 40-3 game heading into the locker rooms, the game was practically
The Colonels scored on their opening second half possession, but with the drive being 20 plays and spanning over seven minutes the Gamecocks gladly conceded.
Freshman receiver Josh Barge, the all-time leading freshman receiver in JSU history, caught his first colligate touchdown in the third. The Gamecocks went on to win 68-10.
“I don’t think in your wildest dreams as a coach you can ever fathom your guys – against a really good team – are going to put every facet of the game together," said coach Clark opening his postgame press conference, “from the intensity, to the physicality, to executing the gameplan.”
The Gamecocks, now ranked 22nd will travel to Eastern Illinois Saturday for, again, their toughest challenge of the year against the 2nd nationally ranked Panthers.