On the 26th try this fall, the FCS finally broke through against an FBS team courtesy of Jacksonville State’s 19-10 win at the Florida International Panthers.
The Panthers tallied the first points of the game on a 37-yard field goal after five minutes of action. The Gamecocks responded in kind with a 30-yard field of their own to tie the game at 3 after one quarter.
Jacksonville State lost quarterback Zerrick Cooper in the first quarter due to a leg injury and he did not return. Cooper was 5 of 8 for 56 yards at the time of his injury.
Cooper’s injury led to the running backs – Josh Samuel and Uriah West – shouldering more of the burden and the duo did an excellent job. Samuel added a 2-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter to give JSU a 10-3 advantage, one they would not relinquish.
Two additional field goals before and after the first half made the lead 16-3 but the Panthers would provide some pressure. They blocked a 32-yard field goal midway through the third quarter and then scored a touchdown to cut the deficit to 16-10 after a 6-yard touchdown pass from Max Bortenschlager to Nate Jefferson.
The Panthers had another chance to cut the deficit but missed a 40-yard field goal. Two drives later, the Gamecocks put the game on ice with a 14 play, 66-yard drive that ate up 7:22 on the clock. It ended with a 23-yard field goal from Alen Karajic, his fourth of the game, and put the game at its final scoreline of 19-10.
Josh Samuel had 163 yards rushing and the lone touchdown for Jacksonville State on 25 carries. Uriah West had 116 yards on 24 carries. Zion Webb did well in place of Cooper throwing for 103 yards on 12 of 17 passing with no turnovers.
The 19-10 score makes the game appear closer than it really was. JSU outgained FIU 444 yards to 156. They had 26 first downs compared to 6 for FIU and held the ball for over 42 minutes compared to just under 18 for the Panthers.
Jacksonville State ended the fall campaign on a three-game winning streak. The Gamecocks lost 41-24 to Florida State on October 3 before ripping off wins against Mercer (34-28), North Alabama (24-17), and Friday night’s opponent FIU.
The win against FIU was the 6th over an FBS school for Jacksonville State after wins against Louisiana-Monroe (1994), Louisiana (2000), Arkansas State (2001), Mississippi (2010), and Georgia State (2013). Jacksonville State improved to 1-2 against C-USA opponents.
The FCS has now won at least one game against an FBS opponent for the 43rd straight season dating back to the Division I split.
Jacksonville State will continue its season in the spring with the Ohio Valley Conference schedule. They are slated to kick off the spring campaign on Sunday, February 21 at Tennessee State. The fall schedules – for all FCS teams – will be considered as part of the NCAA’s process to determine the five at-large teams for next spring’s FCS Playoffs.