Eastern, ranked No. 15 in the FCS Coaches’ Poll, suffered its second loss of the season to No. 4 Jacksonville State by a final score of 20-6. The game kicked off at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8, at Roy Kidd Stadium as the top two teams in the OVC battled for first place.
The Gamecocks (8-1, 6-0 OVC) came into the game leading the OVC in rushing with the Colonels ranking second. Jacksonville State was able to produce 357 rushing yards during the game, compared to only 100 rushing yards for Eastern.
“We gave up a lot of yards, too many, and that was a critical part of the game,” head coach Dean Hood said. “We needed to stop the run (on defense) and we needed to run the football. We didn’t run it well enough and didn’t stop it well enough.”
Jacksonville State took an early 3-0 lead on a 22-yard field goal after its first drive of the game stalled on the Eastern 5-yard line.
After a few punts between the two teams, redshirt sophomore Jared Sanders forced a Gamecock fumble that was recovered by the Colonels’ redshirt junior defensive lineman Floyd Coffey. The recovery set Eastern up with a red-zone opportunity that resulted in a 30-yard field goal by senior kicker Andrew Lloyd.
The Gamecocks answered the Colonels on its next possession with a 13-yard touchdown run by running back DaMarcus James to cap a 7-play, 75-yard drive. The score put Jacksonville State ahead with a 10-7 lead that the Gamecocks carried into halftime. James led Jacksonville State’s ground attack, totaling 21 carries for 170 rushing yards and touchdown.
Lloyd narrowed the gap on a 23-yard field goal with 5:34 left in the third quarter to make the score 10-6. Lloyd converted two of three field goals during the game.
With 8:35 left in the fourth quarter, Jacksonville State registered a field goal to extend its lead to seven points.
The Gamecocks forced a punt after its field goal to get the ball back and pieced together an 8-play, 87-yard scoring drive that resulted in a 14-yard touchdown run by running back Troymaine Pope to push Jacksonville State out to a 20-6 lead. Pope finished with 64 rushing yards and a touchdown on six carries.
The Colonels were unable to find any traction or consistency on offense to fight its way back from the 14-point deficit. It was the first time since Eastern’s 2010 season opener that the Colonels failed to score at least one touchdown in a game.
“They’re a top-5 team,” senior quarterback Jared McClain said. “They have a great defense and a great coaching staff. They just made more plays than us on third down.”
Jacksonville State has not allowed a touchdown to its opponent in 13 consecutive quarters of play and the Gamecock defense only allowed Eastern one third-down conversion on 14 attempts.
Junior running back Dy’Shawn Mobley rushed for 87-yards on 18 carries for the Colonels, adding two receptions for 14 receiving yards. McClain threw for 192 yards and two interceptions on 19 of 33 passing. McClain also rushed for 45-yards on 14 carries.
The Colonels (8-2, 5-2 OVC) will look to rebound in its final home game of the season at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15, against Murray State (3-7, 1-5 OVC) after falling to third place in the OVC standings.