FACTS & STATS: Site: Burgess-Snow Field at JSU Stadium (24,000) – Jacksonville,
Alabama. Surface: ProGrass Artificial. Television: ESPN3.com. Announcers: Roy
Philpott, Forrest Conoly. Home Record: Sam Houston State 6-1; Jacksonville
State 5-0. Road Record: Sam Houston State 2-3; Jacksonville State 5-1. Neutral
Record: Sam Houston State 1-0; Jacksonville State 0-0. Conference: Sam Houston
State – Southland; Jacksonville State – Ohio Valley. Nicknames: Sam Houston
State Bearkats; Jacksonville State Gamecocks. FCS Playoff seeds: Sam Houston
State (not ranked); Jacksonville State (3rd). Series Record: Tied (4-4). Last
Meeting: October 12, 2002 (Jacksonville State, 28-22 at Jacksonville State).
Series Streak: Sam Houston State has won three of the last four meetings. Head
Coaches: Sam Houston State – K.C. Keeler (1st season, 9-4 at Sam Houston State;
21st season, 182-76-1 overall); John Grass (1st season, 10-1 at Jacksonville
State and overall). Playoff Records: Sam Houston State (10-6); Jacksonville
State (2-4). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: Sam Houston State 7 (1986, 1991,
2001, 2004, 2011-13); Jacksonville State 4 (2003-04, 2010, 2013). Current
Playoff Streak: Sam Houston State has won eight of its last 11 FCS playoff
games; Jacksonville State has won two of its last three FCS playoff games.
GAME NOTES: Two former Southland Conference foes collide at Jacksonville
State. Before becoming an Ohio Valley Conference power, and this year’s
conference champion, the host Gamecocks were an associate football member in
the Southland from 1996-2002. The Gamecocks haven’t met Sam Houston since they
departed the Southland and the two programs have split eight all-time
There’s no hiding – and possibly little defending – what each team wants to
do. They are two of the three FCS teams (along with Alcorn State) to have four
players with 600 or more rushing yards this season.
For Sam Houston State, duel-threat quarterback Jared Johnson (2,363 passing
yards, 816 rushing yards) is the offensive leader. He had a team-high 63
rushing yards when the Bearkats played without rushing leader Keshawn Hill
(1,001 yards, 18 TDs) in a 21-17 first-round win over Southland co-champion
Southeastern Louisiana. Hill went down with a head injury on the opening
Transfers Jalen Overstreet (610 yards) and Donavan Williams (609) combined for
Sam Houston’s three touchdowns in the win.
On defense, defensive end P.J. Hall can hardly be considered a freshman
anymore. He’s been a destroyer with 26 tackles for loss, nine sacks, six pass
breakups, four blocked kicks, three forced fumbles and an interception.
There are plenty of fresh faces on a Sam Houston team that played in both the
2011 and ’12 national championship games, but one of the key veterans on
first-coach K.C. Keeeler’s team is senior safety Michael Wade, who leads the
Bearkats in tackles (101). He had eight stops in the 2012 title game.
Jacksonville State’s 10-game winning streak is the second-longest in the FCS
to Harvard’s 14 in a row. The Gamecocks offense ranks fifth in the FCS in
rushing yards per game (287.6) and fourth in total yards per game (510.5).
Their big runners are DaMarcus James (1,023 yards), who has scored a touchdown
against 21 straight FCS opponents, Troymaine Pope (692), quarterback Eli
Jenkins (614) and Miles Jones (605). Center Max Holcombe will make his 49th
career start, an OVC record.
Jacksonville State has filled the gaps against the run, allowing just 3.3
yards per carry and 117.4 yards per game. Junior tackle Devaunte Sigler, who
goes 6-foot-5, 292 pounds, was named the OVC’s defensive player of the year.
The winner will advance to play either Liberty or No. 6 seed Villanova in the
PREDICTION: Jacksonville State’s most impressive win last season came against
a Southland opponent in the playoffs ((McNeese State). The Gamecocks are
rested up for another rival from their past. Jacksonville State, 35-24.