JACKSONVILLE – Jacksonville State’s regular season resumé is complete.
The Gamecocks hung on to defeat Southeast Missouri State 42-34 before a crowd of 12,927 on Senior Day at Burgess-Snow Field to solidify their credentials for a spot in the 24-team Football Championship Subdivision playoff field.
Jacksonville State (9-3, 5-3 in Ohio Valley Conference) will find out its fate Sunday at 10:30 a.m. during the 2013 NCAA Division I Football Championship Selection Show on ESPNU. First-round games will be conducted at eight campus sites on Nov. 30.
“We just told our guys ‘Let’s just see what happens in the morning,’ ” said Jacksonville State head coach Bill Clark. “I told the seniors we were so proud of them and they might be stuck with me one more week.”
The Gamecocks quickly put the disappointment of last week’s loss at No. 2 Eastern Illinois behind them by scoring on their first three possessions. DaMarcus James ran for three touchdowns as Jacksonville State raced to a 28-6 lead at halftime.
James finished with a career-high 206 yards on 35 carries, one of three Gamecock ball carriers with more than 100 yards against the OVC’s second-worst rush defense. Quarterback Eli Jenkins added 124 yards and Troymaine Pope had 102 on only six carries.
“What a great game that kid played. He was unbelievable,” Clark said about James. “That sucker just keeps fighting and keeps fighting. If there’s a better one out there I want to see him. I love that kid because he comes and works every day with the right attitude.”
James extended his school record for rushing touchdowns in a season to 23, four more than Oscar Bonds’ previous record of 19 set in 2004, and set a new OVC mark, passing Eastern Kentucky’s Elroy Harris’ record of 21 set in 1988.
Jacksonville State piled up 587 total yards, including 440 on the ground.
The Gamecocks posted 5,244 yards of total offense in the 12 games, eclipsing the school record of 4,882 set in 1991. The 1991 record was set in 14 games.
Clark’s ninth win in his first season ties him with Jim Fuller (1977) for the most regular season wins by a first-year head coach in JSU history. Fuller went 9-2 in his first season at the Gamecocks’ helm, then won a pair of playoff games to finish 11-3 overall.
Pope finished off a pair of seven-play scoring drives in the second half with TD runs of 21 and 3 yards. The sophomore’s 3-yard scoring run gave Jacksonville State its biggest lead, 42-13, with 1:45 remaining in the third quarter.
But the resilient Redhawks (3-9, 2-6) refused to fold in their season finale. SEMO piled up 21 unanswered points in just over seven minutes to start the fourth quarter, closing the deficit to 42-34 with 7:41 to go.
SEMO had one last shot to pull even after Jacksonville State’s Griffin Thomas missed a 44-yard field goal attempt with 2:26 remaining.
Starting at their 29, the Redhawks moved downfield to JSU’s 15 in 12 plays, but backup quarterback Kyle Snyder’s 9-yard pass to Peter Lloyd on fourth down came up a yard short and the Gamecocks ran out the clock to preserve the victory.
“We played really great for a half,” Clark said. “It was still a good night and we’re glad to get out of here (with a win).”
Jacksonville State registered its most first-quarter points since 2009 as James scored on runs of 1 and 15 yards and Jenkins added a 7-yard TD in the game’s first 12 minutes.
James later added his third TD, an 8-yard run, to cap a 74-yard, 10-play JSU drive. Thomas’ extra point made it 28-6 with 3:16 left before intermission.
SEMO’s offense racked up 463 total yards, with DeMichael Jackson netting 183 of their 410 rushing yards. Lewis Washington added 111 yards on 14 carries.