By Mike Goodson/Sports Correspondent
Jacksonville State head football coach John Grass must have made his entire offensive unit walk back to Calhoun County two weeks ago following their “disastrous” 24-7 win over Eastern Kentucky.
For the first time in several seasons, the Gamecock offense was held out of the end zone. If it had not been for three “pick-sixes,” JSU may have returned home a loser.
The game against Ohio Valley Conference rival Eastern Illinois on Saturday (Oct. 29) was an entirely different game with a totally different outcome.
The Gamecocks scored six plays into the game, and by the end of the first quarter JSU had a 21-0 lead.
No. 22 EIU never really recovered from the above early onslaught and Jacksonville State (7-1, 4-0 in the OVC) cruised to a 47-14 victory over the Panthers (5-4, 3-3) at Burgess-Snow Field.
Second-ranked Jacksonville State looked like one of the best teams in the country on Saturday. Not only was the score one-sided, but JSU out-gained EIU to 469 to 231 in total yards. The Gamecocks rushed for 312 yards compared to only 56 for the Panthers, who were second in the OVC with 185 yards per game coming into the contest.
“We got the ball in the end zone, and that’s what we didn’t do last week,” said Grass. “We ran the ball well, threw the ball and we made some field goals. Today was just a great team win. I don’t think we can play much better. We played a good football team and really dominated most of the game.”
On the game’s first play, EIU quarterback Mitch Kimble was sacked. After an incomplete pass, defensive end Justin Thomas-Thornton came through almost untouched and sacked Kimble on third down. Kimble fumbled and JSU recovered. The Gamecocks took over at the EIU 6-yard line and later scored on Josh Clemons’ 1-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead.
Clemons, who showed dominance at halfback in Roc Thomas’ absence, actually found the end zone twice. He scored once on his one-yard run and again on a three-yard run. Clemons finished the day with 50 yards on 16 carries.
Quarterback Eli Jenkins, who crossed the goal line on an 11-yard run, gained 85 yards on 12 attempts. Two of his 22 passes went for touchdowns. Thomas rushed for a team-high 115 yards on 13 carries, including a 47-yard run.
JSU put the game out of reach early when Jenkins hit Jamari Hester for a 27-yard score. Cade Stinnett added a 32-yard field goal to give JSU a 31-7 halftime lead.
The Gamecocks opened the second half with an eight-play drive and scored on Clemons’ 3-yard touchdown run. Stinnett hit a 48-yard field goal for a 40-7 lead going into the fourth quarter.
The Panthers opened the final quarter with a touchdown as Mattoon native Jared Pilson hit Church for a 30-yard score to make it 40-14. The Gamecocks got the score back on Bryant Horn’s 11-yard run for the 47-14 win.
The Gamecocks take on Southeast Missouri State this Saturday (Nov. 5) in Cape Girardeau, Mo.