Photo: Jacksonville State quarterback Zerrick Cooper (6) hands off to Tramel Terry during the Gamecocks’ 49-22 victory over Eastern Illinois last Saturday (Oct. 13) in Jacksonville. (Mike Goodson)
By Mike Goodson/Sports Correspondent
The Jacksonville State Express continued to pick up speed last Saturday (Oct. 13), as the No. 7 Gamecocks rolled on towards the FCS playoffs with a 490-22 victory over Ohio Valley Conference rival Eastern Illinois Burgess-Snow Field.
Senior receiver Josh Pearson continued to re-write the JSU record book with three touchdown receptions. Pearson became the first Jacksonville State player since Josh Barge in 2015 to snag three touchdowns in a game. Pearson also tied Barge atop the single-season touchdown receptions list with his 11th of 2018. He has five regular-season games remaining to eclipse the record.
JSU (5-1, 4-0 OVC) swapped scoring drives with the Panthers for the first 30 minutes, but the Gamecocks scored touchdowns while holding EIU to three field goals as JSU led 21-9 at the half.
“We got off to a fast start and then it felt like we relaxed,” said JSU head coach John Grass. “We didn’t play as well after we got up 14-0. We kicked it into gear in the third and fourth quarters. We knew they were going to throw it every snap and they did (61 times). As the game went on, I think our depth took over. We played a lot of folks.”
The Gamecocks’ first two possessions resulted in touchdowns, and neither drive took more than two minutes. Eastern Illinois’ best weapon in the first half was kicker Nick Bruno, who made field goals of 27, 40 and 36 yards to keep his team within striking distance.
The second half was practically all JSU, as the Gamecocks built a 35-9 lead by the end of three quarters. The Panthers scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns but the Gamecocks were too much for the visitors down the stretch.
The Gamecocks’ 36th consecutive OVC victory moved them within three wins of tying the mark of 39 conference wins in a row by Duquesne in the MAAC from 1999-2006. Jacksonville State current mark is the longest current active streak in NCAA Division I.
Alexander Hollins had one touchdown against JSU’s top-ranked defense but was held to 57 yards below his season average of 138.3 per game.
EIU (1-6, 1-3) recorded 365 yards from scrimmage yards but with just 15 on the ground on 19 attempts. It was the second straight week the JSU defense limited an opponent to less than one yard per carry. The JSU offense, meanwhile, now has scored at least 48 points in all its conference wins. The Gamecocks piled up 579 yards against the Panthers.
Grass was pleased with the standout play of Pearson.
“It’s good to have a guy like that. He is a success story. He has paid his dues, and it is good to see him playing well. Josh is an amazing athlete who can stretch the field. He can go up and get the ball. It was good timing for us, and I think our other receivers are playing a lot better, as well. That whole unit is so much better, probably the best we have been in a long time.”
The Gamecocks play three of their next four league games on the road, beginning with a trip to Cape Girardeau, Mo., to take on Southeast Missouri State (4-2, 2-1). JSU’s next game at Burgess-Snow Field will be Nov. 3 against UT-Martin.