By Mike Goodson/Sports Correspondent
Jacksonville State’s hopes of a return trip to Frisco, Texas, and a chance to play for the FCS Division 1 National Championship came to a screeching halt on Saturday (Dec. 3) at Burgess-Snow Stadium.
Youngstown State rolled up 520 offensive yards while stunning No. 3 seed Jacksonville State, 40-24, in the second round of the playoffs.
“We gave up too many explosive plays, which is uncharacteristic of us, especially in the passing game,” said Jacksonville State coach John Grass. “It was just one of those days.
They’re a really good football team and fundamentally sound. They threw the ball a lot better than we expected.”
In the first-ever meeting between the two programs, the Penguins (10-3) scored on their first three possessions before the Gamecocks (10-2) pulled within 27-24 on Josh Clemons’ 2-yard touchdown run with 4:07 left in the third quarter.
The visitors answered quickly on their next drive to push the lead back to double digits for good.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against JSU opened the drive, then quarterback Hunter Wells connected on a 38-yard pass to Damoun Patterson to the Gamecock 8. Running back Martin Ruiz finished it off from there with a touchdown run up the middle for a 34-24 lead.
Zak Kennedy kicked his final two field goals in the fourth quarter to provide the extra cushion.
“We had a lot of respect for Jacksonville State and knew we were going to have to come into their place and play a really good football team,” said YSU second-year coach Bo Pelini.
For YSU, Jody Webb rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns, Wells passed for 290 yards and a touchdown on only 10 completions and Kennedy kicked four field goals.
JSU quarterback Eli Jenkins tied the school record by playing in his 53rd career game. While he rushed for 189 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries, he completed a mere 6 of 26 passes for 140 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
The Penguins will host Wofford (10-3), which beat No. 6 seed The Citadel 17-3, in the quarterfinals this Saturday (Nov. 10). The Missouri Valley Football Conference squad already has a home win over a Southern Conference team in this year’s playoffs, a 38-24 victory over Samford.
“We wanted to win the last one, but in order to win that one we had to win this one,” said Grass. “It’s not the way I wanted to see these seniors go out, for sure.”