Gamecocks roll over UNA

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By Mike Goodson/Sports Correspondent

Jacksonville State seems intent on taking up where it left off last season.
The No. 3 Gamecocks rolled to a 31-12 victory over North Alabama on Sept. 1 in JSU’s season opener at Burgess-Snow Field.
“I thought we played well on both sides of the ball,” said Jacksonville State head coach John Grass said. “I thought our effort was good. We were physical.”
North Alabama’s defense got a good workout during the first quarter.
The Gamecocks took the opening kickoff and drove 83 yards in 17 plays to take a 7-0 lead. Moments later, the defense was back on the field and saw JSU quarterback Eli Jenkins break free for a 47-yard touchdown run.
With the UNA offense going three-and-out on each of its three possessions of the first quarter, the Lion defense could never catch its breath. JSU ran 30 total plays in the first quarter for 178 yards in total offense.
The JSU offense appeared at times to live up to its lofty billing with Eli Jenkins and Roc Thomas in the backfield but the Gamecock defense stole the show. Jacksonville State didn’t allow UNA a first down until 13:39 remained in the first half. The Lions struggled to move the ball down the field until UNA got on the scoreboard on a 9-yard pass from Jacob Tucker to Julius Jones. The PAT attempt was no good, and JSU held a 21-6 lead with 2:26 left in the second quarter.
The Gamecocks struggled penalty-wise throughout the game, as JSU was flagged 12 times for 106 yards. The JSU offense otherwise dominated, gaining 502 yards while allowing UNA just 222.
“We have some things we need to clean up,” Grass said. “Every time we didn’t have penalties, we scored. When we had penalties, they were drive killers. We didn’t have a lot of pre-snap stuff. It was things that can be cleaned up.”
Kevin Henke made a 47-yard field goal for the Lions to trim their deficit to 21-9 with 2:33 left in the first half, but that was as close as UNA would come.
Jenkins finished with 332 yards of total offense. He completed 20 of 34 passes for 230 yards, and added 102 on the ground.
Eight different JSU players had receptions. Thomas led the Gamecocks with 53 yards on four receptions. Anthony Johnson, who was the only player to previously start at wide receiver for the Gamecocks, had 29 yards on four catches. Wisconsin transfer Krenwick Sanders hauled in three receptions for 50 yards. Freshman Evan Crossing had 34 yards on three catches.
“Our receivers are very talented,” Grass said. “It’s just going to take some time to get them to play together because a lot of them are new. I think it is potentially the most talented group we have had.”
A near capacity crowd of 22,116 was announced as attending the game.
“It’s good to open at home in front of 22,000-plus fans after being on the road the last few years,” Grass said. “You kind of worry, going in, how a Thursday night game would go, since we haven’t had one in a while. It was a really good atmosphere.”
The Gamecocks travel to LSU on Sept. 10. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.

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