By Mike Goodson/Sports Correspondent
Jacksonville State overcame a sluggish start to overwhelm Tennessee Tech this past Saturday (Sept. 22) at Snow-Burgess Field. The No. 9 Gamecocks defeated the Eagles, 48-20 in their Ohio Valley Conference opener at Burgess-Snow Field.
JSU (2-1, 1-0) extended its OVC win streak to 33 games, the longest active conference winning streak in NCAA Division I.
Tennessee Tech rushed for 142 total yards, the most any team has rushed on the Gamecocks this season, a feat in itself on a team that prides itself in holding teams to under 100 rushing yards 80 times since jumping up to the Division I ranks. It was the most rushing yards Tech has had against JSU since 2013 and the fourth most since the Gamecocks joined the OVC Conference.
“You could definitely tell we haven’t played in two weeks,” said JSU head coach John Grass. “We just have to do a better job of creating energy. It was just a dead game for us energy-wise. However, we don’t have to worry about an off-week because we’ve got nine straight games now. It will be good to play next week and get into a rhythm. I thought we made a lot of plays and I thought we missed a lot of plays, but give [Tennessee Tech] credit; they were tough and physical. There is just a lot to clean up. I wasn’t happy at halftime. I thought we were sluggish and looked like we hadn’t played in two weeks. It happens.”
JSU quarterback Zerrick Cooper (pictured above courtesy of jsugamecocksports.com)) threw for two touchdowns and 190 yards on 14-of-24 passing, while Zion Webb rushed for two touchdowns and 59 yards on nine carries. Josh Pearson caught both touchdowns on five receptions for 102 yards.
You’ve got to throw the ball,” said Grass. “When you can stretch the field vertically with your passing game, it opens up many different things. On the line, we’re young but we’re getting better. There’s a lot of great competition going on in the running back room, too, and I hope that continues.”
Jacksonville State jumped out to a 10-3 lead after one quarter and led 24-6 at the half. The Gamecocks added 24 more points in the second half to win going away. Gamecocks out-gained the Eagles, 544 to 292, in total offense.
“Our guys came here to win this game,” said Tennessee Tech head coach Dewayne Alexander. “We didn’t come down here to play close and we weren’t worried about what these guys have done for the past four years. This was the 2018 Golden Eagles versus the 2018 Jacksonville State team. We came down here to compete, and our guys competed hard. We played hard, but we just did not play well enough to win the game in some key situations.”
JSU hosts Austin Peay this Saturday (Sept. 29) in the Gamecocks’ homecoming.