By Mike Goodson/Sports Correspondent
Jacksonville State met Austin Peay in the teams’ annual Ohio Valley Conference struggle last Saturday (Oct. 15) and the game turned out to be just that.
The Gamecocks (5-1, 2-0) took a 14-7 lead into the half against the winless Governors, but a turnover by Austin Peay in the third quarter turned out to be a big difference in the game that saw JSU win by a 34-14 score.
APU quarterback Timarious Mitchell could not handle a bad snap deep inside Governor territory, and JSU defensive end Darius Jackson came up with the fumble at the Austin Peay 1-yard line.
Josh Clemons scored one play later to put the Gamecocks up 21-7 with 9:27 left in the third quarter.
Clemons’ score seemed to take the wind out of the sails of Austin Peay.
“Defense creating turnovers is huge,” Jacksonville State head coach John Grass said. “You have to create turnovers, and the defense is doing a great job of doing that right now.”
Quarterback Eli Jenkins added a 5-yard touchdown run after he kept the ball on the read option. The score extended JSU’s lead to 27-7 with the extra point being no good, and the Gamecocks never looked back. JSU and Austin Peay each added late touchdowns.
Clemons finished as the Gamecocks’ leading rusher with a career high 143 yards on 19 carries. He added a 46-yard score in the fourth quarter to go along with his other scoring run.
“He played great,” Jenkins said of the redshirt senior, who got more carries than usual with Roc Thomas being out with a concussion.
“[Thomas] is symptom-free right now,” Grass said of the former Auburn Tiger. “They let him be on the sidelines today.”
Jenkins did not practice this week until Wednesday to rest his shoulder after it got banged up in last week’s win over Tennessee Tech.
“Eli looked like he didn’t practice this week, and he didn’t practice for most of the week,” Grass said. “He’ll get better next week, and I thought he played better in the second half.”
Jenkins finished 9 of 20 passing for 72 yards with one touchdown after completing just 4 of 11 passes in the first half. He had 117 yards on the ground with two touchdowns.
Jenkins became just the third player in OVC history and first in JSU history to record over 10,000 yards of offense in a career. Jenkins moved to fourth on the Gamecocks’ career rushing touchdown list at 36 and third on the JSU career rushing yardage list at 3,420.
Josh Barge was the leading receiver for JSU with six receptions for 44 yards. The senior tied the OVC record with 44 consecutive games with a reception. He also moved into third place on the OVC career receiving yards list at 3,139 and fourth place on the OVC career receptions’ list at 221.
Former Southside High standout Dantley Coker recorded his first career reception for 12 yards on JSU’s first play of the game.
Siran Neal led JSU defensively with eight tackles, while James Bond led the Governor defense with 10.
Jacksonville State continues conference play next week on the road against Eastern Kentucky.