Photo: Jacksonville State quarterback Zerrick Cooper throws the game-winning touchdown pass as Tennessee-Martin’s Donnell Williams closes in during the Gamecocks’ 21-14 victory in college football last Saturday (Nov. 3) in Jacksonville. (Mike Goodson/Messenger)
By Mike Goodson/Sports Correspondent
There’s an old saying in sports that it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.
This axiom applied to the football game this last Saturday (Nov. 3) at Burgess-Snow Field.
The University of Tennessee at Martin football team battled Ohio Valley Conference rival and No. 10 Jacksonville State down to the wire before ultimately dropping the decision 21-14 in the final seconds of the contest.
The Skyhawks (1-8, 1-5) fought Gamecocks (7-2, 6-1) throughout the game and had a 14-13 lead with 1:06 to play in the contest.
UT-Martin out-gaining the league’s top offense and defense 396-314 in total offense. The Skyhawk defense was exceptional throughout the day, containing Jacksonville State’s high-powered offense that entered the contest averaging 43.1 points per game while forcing three turnovers.
“We were very, very fortunate,” said Jacksonville State head coach John Grass. “We were a little off offensively, but [UT-Martin] had a lot of do with that. We played well defensively and kept ourselves in the game but it was not a good day offensively. All that matters is that we did something on that last drive; we had to have it and we went and got it.”
UT-Martin was held in check for much of the game, as the visitors trailed 13-3 heading into the fourth quarter.
That’s when all of the action began.
The Skyhawks struck first on their second field goal of the day, this one from 26 yards out, to trim the margin to a single possession.
UT-Martin then put together some late-game heroics when quarterback Joe Hudson found a streaking Jaylon Moore down the left side of the field. The junior receiver tight-roped the sideline and ran 52 yards into the end zone with 66 seconds to play.
But JSU marched 69 yards in three plays for the game-winning touchdown with 29 seconds left. Jamari Hester’s longest career reception from quarterback Zerrick Cooper and the ensuing two-point conversion put JSU ahead after UT-Martin had taken its first lead with 1:06 on the clock.
Pearson was limited to three catches for 36 yards and held without a touchdown for the first time this season. He caught the two-point conversion pass from Cooper following Hester’s touchdown to keep alive a streak of having scored in every game in 2018.
Quan Stoudemire’s 10-yard interception return in the first quarter was the first of his career. The senior linebacker added six tackles and was credited with one pass breakup.
“I have to give credit to my defensive line,” he said. “They forced the quarterback to make a bad throw and I was in the right position to pick it off. I didn’t think I was ever going to get to the end zone, but I finally did and I’m glad I was able to help my team to a victory.”
The Gamecocks travel to Nashville this Saturday (Nov. 10) to play Tennessee State for their final conference game.
“Our hopes could have vanished today,” said Grass. “It would have made winning out a must just to have a chance at them. I think we deserve to get into the playoffs, but the last drive definitely kept us alive.”