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Jacksonville State takes unbeaten record into OVC play
It certainly hasn’t been easy for Jacksonville State in the first four games of the Bill Clark era, but the Gamecocks have come out on top every time.
With the exception of a 48-13 blowout win over Jacksonville, the other three wins have been decided by a total of 11 points. The last two wins have gone beyond regulation.
The Gamecocks are coming off a 32-26 overtime win at Georgia State, which followed a 24-21 double-overtime win over North Alabama. JSU got the season started with a 24-22 win at Alabama State.
The Gamecocks open Ohio Valley Conference play on Saturday with a 3 p.m. home game against Murray State (2-2).
“There were a lot of good things to take out of it and know that we are not satisfied,” Clark said. “There are a ton of things to get better at and we are continually growing as a team as we enter conference play.”
Jacksonville State is one of 13 remaining unbeaten teams in the Football Championship Subdivision, and just one of seven with a 4-0 record.
The ground game has been a big reason for that, as the Gamecocks average 232.5 yards per game, good for 18th nationally. JSU had four players rush for more than 100 yards - an FCS record - in the win over Jacksonville University. Troymaine Pope ran for 160 yards, Miles Jones ran for 138, quarterback Eli Jenkins ran for 128 and DaMarcus James ran for 105.
The Gamecocks primarily use two quarterbacks. Jenkins, a former Parker High standout, is listed as the starter. He’s more of a runner, but has shown ability to throw as well. Jenkins has run for 225 and thrown for 170 yards this season. Max Shortell, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound transfer from Minnesota, is more of a pocket passer. Shortell has thrown for 477 yards and two touchdowns.
Kicker Griffin Thomas has hit 10-of-12 field goal attempts. He hit 10-of-19 last season.
Clark said he wants his team to treat each Ohio Valley Conference game like a playoff game.
“I want our guys to focus on one game at a time and I don’t want to put much pressure on us,” Clark said. “If you go through any history of any conference, a team loses and they come back to win the league. Now, you can’t have a bunch of losses. You can’t say if something happens, our season is over. At the same time, we want to prepare as if it was a playoff game and as if it was a one-game season.”
JSU will get starting left guard Taylor Johnstone back after the senior was forced to miss the first four games of the season because of an academic issue.
JSU is 4-0, but not yet ranked. The Gamecocks are receiving votes in both the coaches and media polls, however.
By Drew Champlin, The Birmingham News