By Mike Goodson/Sports Correspondent
For the third consecutive year, the Jacksonville State football team has won the Ohio Valley Conference championship and will head to the FCS playoffs.
Eli Jenkins rushed for a career best four touchdowns and Jaylen Hill had two of JSU’s four interceptions as the Gamecocks wrapped up an undefeated OVC season and an automatic FCS playoff berth with a 33-7 win over Tennessee-Martin last Saturday (Nov. 19) in Jacksonville.
The Gamecocks finished the year strong with nine straight wins but will have to escape a tough bracket that features The Citadel and Eastern Washington in order to have a second shot at the FCS title.
Jenkins, a senior quarterback, scored on runs of 1, 9, 32 and 10 yards, while Cade Stinnett added two field goals to account for the 33 points.
Two of the touchdowns and both field goals were set up by interceptions.
UT-Martin’s only score came on Troy Cook’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Greg McKillion late in the third quarter with the Gamecocks (10-1, 7-0) leading 26-0. Cook completed only 17 of 45 passes for 192 yards. With the loss, the Skyhawks (7-5, 6-2) finished second in the conference.
Jacksonville State jumped to a 12-0 first quarter lead and never looked back against the visitors from Martin, Tenn. Jenkins opened the scoring with 12:20 to go in the first quarter with a 1-yard TD run. Stinnett added two field goals to increase the JSU lead to 12-0 by the quarters end. Jenkins added his second TD with 1:33 to go in the half, giving JSU its 19-0 lead.
The Gamecocks added two second-half touchdowns by Jenkins.
The road to Frisco, Texas, starts this coming weekend. The 2016-17 FCS playoff bracket was released on Nov. 20, revealing the 24 teams who will compete for the national championship at Toyota Stadium on Jan. 7. Five-time defending champion North Dakota State takes the No. 1 spot after a one-loss season that included five wins over ranked FCS opponents and a victory in Iowa against the then-ranked Hawkeyes of the FBS.
Eastern Washington, Jacksonville State, James Madison, Sam Houston State and The Citadel follow as the No. 2-6 seeds, respectively. On Dec. 3, The Gamecocks will host the winner of Samford/Youngstown State in a second-round game.