ATLANTA – Junior DaMarcus James’ third touchdown of the day came in overtime and gave his Jacksonville State football team a thrilling 32-26 win over FBS opponent Georgia State in the Georgia Dome.
James ran for 41 yards on 16 carries but ran three times out of the wildcat formation and scored on all three to lift the Gamecocks (4-0) to yet another last-minute win. His career-high three scores is one away from the school record and gives JSU its fifth win over a team from the NCAA’s highest level and first since beating Ole Miss in 2010.
The Panthers (0-4) used fireworks on the first play of the game, only to watch JSU storm back and build a 14-point second-half lead. GSU got two big special teams plays that set up 14 points that tied the game, and the two teams exchanged field goals before the game went into overtime.
The JSU defense held the Panthers to start the extra frame, and the offense marched 25 yards in six plays to give the Gamecocks their sixth overtime win in 10 tries and sixth in a row. It was JSU’s second trip to the Georgia Dome and its second overtime win in the facility.
JSU outgained the Panthers, 433-400, grabbing 311 of those through the air. All four scores came from its 122 rushing yards on 44 attempts, with Eli Jenkins adding one to James’ career-high three.
Max Shortell threw for a career-high 235 yards on 12-for-27 passing, while Jenkins was 5-for-5 for 76 yards through the air. Freshman Josh Barge hauled in eight catches for 124 yards, both career highs for a guy that had just four catches for 50 career yards before Saturday.
The Panthers got a duel-threat performance from starting quarterback Ronnie Bell, who threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns on 16-for-41 passing and ran for 57 yards on 11 carries. Albert Wilson was his favorite target, pulling in seven catches for 158 yards and a 75-yard score on the game’s first play.
Defensively, Robert Gray had seven tackles, while Caleb Lawrence had six and a sack. JSU had three sacks and six quarterback hurries in the game.
The Panthers wasted no time in getting on the board, using just 13 seconds of the first quarter clock before taking a 6-0 lead. Bell found Wilson on a 75-yard strike on the game’s first play that put GSU in front. The game opening bomb was the longest play the JSU defense had allowed this season.
The Gamecock defense redeemed itself on its next trip on the field. After a JSU punt, the defense made a move on third down. Ketrick Wolfe stripped the ball from receiver Travis Evans and Pierre Warren scooped it up and returned it 29 yards inside the one. James punched it in on the very next play and Griffin Thomas’ kick gave the Gamecocks a 7-6 lead with 9:24 left in the first.
The Panthers grabbed the lead back on the ensuing possession, thanks to a 60-yard kickoff return from Wilson that set up a 39-yard Wil Lutz field goal that pushed the score to 9-7 in GSU’s favor.
After the two teams exchanged punts, the Gamecocks drove 90 yards down the field to regain the lead early in the second. A nine-play, 90-yard drive would be the longest of the year for the JSU offense and was capped by another wildcat run of one-yard by James. Max Shortell entered the game early in the drive and set up the score with a 50-yard pass that was dropped right into the hands of Anthony Johnson at the GSU one. The Gamecocks went for two but failed, leaving their lead at 13-9 with just over nine minutes left in the half.
Another GSU turnover set up another Gamecock score just before the half. Jamill Lott picked off Bell at midfield and returned it 18 yards to the Panther 41 with 53 seconds left in the half. Shortell connected with Merrill for a 31-yard throw-and-catch that set up a five-yard run from Jenkins. The 27-second drive gave the Gamecocks the halftime lead for the third-straight week at 20-9.
The Gamecocks caught a break midway through the third, when a third-and-long saw Shortell scramble before finding Dalton Screws for first-down yardage. The receiver fumbled, but several GSU players kept pushing it downfield, where Anthony Johnson fell on it at the Panther 14. Thomas kicked a 29-yard field goal to extend JSU’s lead to 23-9 with just under five minutes left in the quarter.
The Panthers’ special teams went to work to start the fourth quarter. After forcing a JSU 3-and-out, C.J. Scott blocked Hamish MacInnes’ punt and recovered in the end zone for a score that cut the Gamecocks’ lead to 23-16.
On the ensuing kick, Rashod Byers took it from just inside the end zone and fumbled it over to the Panthers at the Gamecock 13-yard line. Two plays later, Bell connected with Robert Davis for a 10-yard touchdown pass. The Panthers scored 14 points in just 62 seconds to tie the game with just over 12 minutes to play.
The two exchanged punts before the Gamecocks got back in front. A drive that started at the GSU 48 ended with Thomas’ 34-yard field goal that gave JSU a 26-23 advantage with 2:58 remaining.
The Panthers marched the ball down the field as the clock ran down, converting a fourth down and two third-down conversions before Wil Lutz’s 26-yard field goal as time expired sent the game into overtime.
JSU won the OT toss and chose to go on defense to start the extra period. A three-and-out forced Lutz to try a 42-yarder, which he missed wide left and set up the Gamecocks’ winning drive.
JSU needed just six plays, all of which were rushes by James, to punch it in and escape the Dome with the Gamecocks’ ninth win in the final 80 seconds since the start of 2010.
The Gamecocks will return home to open Ohio Valley Conference play on Saturday against Murray State. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. CT, and it will be Fall Preview Day on JSU’s campus.
– Captains for the Gamecocks: senior LB Brenton Tolson, senior OL Max Holcombe and senior PK Griffin Thomas
– JSU won the toss and deferred to the second half.
– The Gamecocks wore white road jerseys for the first time this season. JSU wore red on the road for the season opener at the request of Alabama State.
– Jamill Lott (DB) and Miles Jones (RB) both earned their first career start vs Georgia State. A total of 12 players have now made their first career start during in the 2013 season.
– Georgia State scored on a 75-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the game and it was the first time an opponent scored on the first play of the game since Jonathan Dwyer (Georgia Tech) scored on a 74-yard rush on Sept. 5, 2009.
– The 75-yard touchdown pass on the opening play of the was the first “Long Play” touchdown (20-yards or longer) that JSU has allowed this season. The previous long touchdown gave up by JSU was an 8-yard pass by Alabama State on Aug. 31.
– Pierre Warren returned a fumble down to the GSU 1-yard line with 9:39 left in the first quarter to set up the Gamecocks first touchdown of the game. It was the fourth career fumble recovery for Warren and first of the season.
– DaMarcus James scored on a one-yard direct snap with 9:35 left in the first quarter and Griffin Thomas kicked the point after to give JSU a 7-6 lead.
– JSU’s first touchdown of the day took only :04, which was the fastest offensive TD of the season. It was the third offensive scoring drive of less than :09 this season for JSU.
– JSU’s 90-yard scoring touchdown early in second quarter was the longest scoring drive this year by the Gamecocks.
– Jamill Lott, who earned his first career start today, intercepted his first pass with :37 left in the second quarter.
– Eli Jenkins scored on a 5-yard rush with just :10 left in the second quarter and it was his second rushing TD of the season.
– JSU has scored points off a turnover in all four games this season, including two touchdown’s in today’s game against Georgia State.
– Jax State has now led in three straight games at halftime, after not leading the previous eight games at the half (streak snapped against Jacksonville University).
– Georgia State blocked a JSU punt in the 4th quarter and it was the first Gamecock blocked punt since Austin Peay on Oct. 31, 2009 (2nd quarter) and first returned for an opponent touchdown since EIU on Sept. 27, 2008 (4th quarter).
-JSU’s fumble lost early in the 4th quarter was first turnover for the Gamecocks since the 2nd quarter of the Jacksonville University game – a span of 10 quarters of action.
– The Gamecocks went to overtime in back-to-back weeks for the first time in school history. It marks just the second time in school history JSU has played two overtime games in the same year (2010 at Ole Miss and at Ga. State).
– The Gamecocks are now 6-4 all-time in overtime games and have won six in a row in OT.
– JSU is now 5-16 all-time against FBS opponents after today’s win over Georgia State.
– JSU remains a perfect 3-0 against Georgia State and is 2-0 in the Georgia Dome.
– Jax State now has 22 come-from-behind wins since the start of the 2010 season and has rallied in all four wins this year.
– JSU first-year head coach Bill Clark improves to 4-0 on the season and it’s the second most wins by a Gamecock coach in their first season. Jim Fuller won his first five games of the 1977 season.
– JSU is 4-0 for the first time since the 2010 season
– JSU has now won five straight games in an NFL stadium and two-straight in the Georgia Dome.
JSU BY THE NUMBERS
2 – Times Jax State has played in the Georgia Dome and both meetings have been against the Panthers
3 – Straight games JSU has held the lead at the half (after not leading the previous eight)
3 – Rushing Touchdowns by DaMarcus James, a career high and tying for 2nd-most in a game in JSU’s Div. I history.
4 – NFL Stadiums the Gamecocks have played (Orange Bowl, LP Field, Raymond James Stadium, Georgia Dome).
6 – Consecutive overtime wins for the Gamecocks, who are 6-4 all-time in OT after losing their first four
12 – JSU players that have made their first career start during the 2013 season (Jamill Lott and Miles Jones today)
22 – Come-from-behind wins by JSU since the start of the 2010 season (All four this season have been come-from-behind wins)
26 – Consecutive games started by junior Max Holcombe at center, the longest active streak by a Gamecock
31 – Points scored off turnovers by the Gamecocks this season.
39 – Wins by JSU against teams from the State of Georgia