Sam Houston State at #3 Jacksonville State FCS Football 2014 Playoffs 2nd Round Game Breakdown

George Hammond


Sam Houston State at #3 Jacksonville State, Saturday, 2:00

It’s safe to say that Jacksonville State has been waiting for a return to the playoffs for almost a year. In 2013, the Gamecocks made it to the FCS quarterfinals before losing to Eastern Washington, 35-24. That game was 21-21 at halftime, but JSU lost quarterback Eli Jenkins to a knee injury shortly before the half and lost top running back Damarcus James to a thigh injury in the third quarter. Two subsequent interceptions turned the momentum and cost JSU a chance at the semifinals.

Now the Gamecocks are back, and they’re ready. Jenkins and James return and the No. 3-seeded Gamecocks are ready to unleash their fast-pace attack on the Bearkats (JSU was first nationally in offensive plays per game entering the regular-season finale). The Gamecocks (10-1) have won ten straight after a 45-7 loss to Michigan State to open the season. The preseason favorites to win the Ohio Valley Conference did just that as they toppled Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Illinois and Tennessee State along the way.

Meanwhile, the Bearkats (9-4), co-champs of the Southland Conference, stayed alive in a tournament with a 21-17 win over fellow league rival Southeastern Louisiana. Sam Houston State trailed 10-0 at halftime but had a strong second-half defensive effort and a key blocked field goal to secure the victory. They did it despite four turnovers.

For Sam Houston State to stay alive this week, the turnovers must go although Jacksonville State is prone to making miscues, too. Entering the regular-season finale, Sam Houston State and Jacksonville State were the only FCS schools with four 500-plus yard rushers on each team.

The 38-point total in last week’s Sam Houston State contest was surprising, considering the Bearkats and SE Louisiana have potent attacks. The same is true this week as Jacksonville State is ranked fourth nationally in total offense with 510.5 yards per game. The Bearkats caught a break last week because SE Louisiana quarterback Bryan Bennett was hobbled with a sprained foot. Still, Sam Houston State came up big. It will need another stellar defensive effort to advance this week and that might be too much to ask. All four of Sam Houston State’s losses have been on the road and, in the 2013 playoffs, Jacksonville State knocked off fellow Southland team McNeese State, 31-10.

If Sam Houston State could spring the upset, it’s possible first-year coach KC Keeler (former Delaware head coach) could meet up the following week with old CAA rival Villanova.

Projected Score: Jacksonville State, 31, Sam Houston State 17


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