Sam Houston State at Jacksonville State FCS Football 2015 Semifinal Breakdown

George Hammond

Sam Houston State at Jacksonville State FCS Football 2015 Semifinal Breakdown


Sam Houston State at No. 1 Jacksonville State, Saturday, 4 p.m.

Two FCS heavyweights meet in this semifinal that could easily produce a national champion. The No. 1-seeded Gamecocks knocked off Charleston Southern, 58-38, Friday night while Sam Houston State humbled Patriot League champion Colgate, 48-21, in quarterfinal-round action on Saturday. Jacksonville State (12-1) just has the one blemish on its record this fall, that coming against FBS Auburn in a tight contest. Meanwhile, Sam Houston State (11-3), who has reached the semifinals in four of the last five years, seems to be peaking after finishing second in the Southland Conference to McNeese State this year.

This is a rematch of last year’s playoff game in Jacksonville, Alabama, won by Sam Houston State, 37-26, and all indications are that this one should be just as entertaining this time around. The Gamecocks led 26-24 at halftime of that contest, but they were hurt by 12 penalties for 129 yards. In addition, Sam Houston State took advantage of two key interceptions late in the contest to seal the victory.

Statistically, the game was close. Sam Houston State had 25 first downs to Jacksonville State’s 22. The Gamecocks had 260 yards rushing to Sam Houston State’s 241, while JSU had the edge in passing, 253 yards to 161.

At first glance, it appears as if the contest will be a track meet, particularly after Friday night’s quarterfinal victory over Charleston Southern. And while both teams have explosive talents, they might not be able to break the long run as they have against other playoff foes. It might come down to whether Jacksonville State or Sam Houston State can sustain lengthy drives and avoid turnovers.

Jacksonville State, of course, will rely on running back Troymaine Pope (250 yards rushing and touchdown runs of 76, 44 and 54 against Charleston Southern) and quarterback Eli Jenkins (195 yards rushing and two touchdowns). The Bearkats will counter with Corey Avery (197 yards rushing and one touchdown against Colgate) and quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe, who got his second start of the season on Saturday. He had two big-time receivers in Ladarius Brown (5 receptions, 86 yards and two touchdowns against Colgate) and Yedidah Louis (9 receptions for 119 yards against Colgate).

Special teams could play a factor, too. Neither team is adept at kicking field goals. Jacksonville State’s Connor Rouleau is 14-of-24 with a long of 41 and is just 1-of-6 over 40 yards. The Bearkats’ duo of Luc Swimberghe and Tre Honshtein are a combined 13-of-22. Honshtein was 2-of-2 against Colgate on two short field goal attempts.

So how does this play out? This could be one of those matchups that if they met 10 times each would win five. Jacksonville State will be a slight favorite, but something tells me that national final isn’t going to be all chalk. Either Richmond is going to knock off North Dakota State or Sam Houston State will surprise Jacksonville State. And since I picked North Dakota State to beat Richmond, I’m going with Sam Houston State against Jacksonville State.

Projected Score: Sam Houston State 27, Jacksonville State 21


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