Over 17,000 saw Jacksonville State move to 2-0 for the first time since 2010 Saturday night when the Gamecocks ran over the Dolphins from Jacksonville (FL) University.
Coach Bill Clark returned to the sidelines of his alma mater just a week after winning his collegiate coaching debut. He would become the seventh coach is JSU history to win his home opener before the night was finished.
Jacksonville State knew all too well heading into the game against the non-scholarship Pioneer League team that they couldn’t be taken lightly, especially with an elusive quarterback, who just happened to be the son of the coach, who had himself played quarterback in the SEC.
The Dolphins opened up as many expected, and after taking over on a short field, JU drove to the Gamecocks' one yard line before a one yard toss on fourth-and-goal gave the Dolphins a 7-0 lead midway through the first capping an eight play forty yard drive.
After a strong performance off the bench last week, Max Shortell got the start at QB for Jax State. The offense sputtered in the first though and only bright spot was a 44 yard run by DaMarcus James, but that drive ended when Shortell was picked off. Shortell would finish with just four completions for 26 yards as the night quickly became a ground game.
Eli Jenkins came in to call the signals in the second and gave the offense a kick start.
Triymaine Pope carried in two big scores in the second to put JSU up 14-7, but following a JU field goal it was 14-10 game nearing halftime.
The Gamecocks would hurry down the field on a nine play 75 yard drive allowing James to punch in a score before the break.
The halftime stats were indicative of the direction the night was headed as the Gamecocks only had a total 11 passing yards at the break to 277 rushing yards. JSU had never had three 100-yard rushers in a single game before and had three sitting at 91, 94 and 95 with 30 minutes left to play.
Jax State added a field goal on the opening drive of the second half by way of Griffin Thomas who had two in the game and is now is 3/3 kicking after the first two games.
Any chance at a rally seemed to end on the following possession as Pierre Warren took a 70-yard interception return back to the house, making it 31-10.
Warren noted after the game that on defense he doesn’t get to score a lot so when he gets his hands on the ball, that’s his main goal. The junior from Prattville, AL, has made the big plays before and has the third longest interception and fumble returns in school history; a 98-yard pick-6 at TSU in 2011, and a 75-yard scoop and score vs UTC last season.
After reviving the offense, Jenkins got in on the scoring with a nine yard run midway through the third, and Pope added his third rushing TD at the end of the quarter to lift JSU to a commanding 45-10 lead.
Each team exchanged field goals in the final period, but the big event was Mile Jones taking over to close the game on the ground an eclipsing the 100-yard mark which set an FCS record.
Pope totaled 160 yards with his three scores while Jones with 138, Jenkins with 128 and James with 105 yards helped lead the Gamecocks to a school record 523 total rushing yards.
Behind Warren, Rashad Smith and Jamil Lott led the way in tackling and Ben Endress broke through on special teams for a punt block that helped fuel that JSU scoring.
Junior center, Max Holcomb said, “That’s crazy,” on being a part of such a big night. He knows his line won’t receive the credit, he felt proud knowing they were the foundation to a record-setting rushing game.
After the game coach Clark addressed that the offense did need to become more balanced, but that it was still special to be a part of the history that did occur Saturday night. JSU revives and old rivalry in their next game as they host the North Alabama Lions this Saturday night and look to move to 3-0.