Story courtesy of the Ohio Valley Conference
Photo courtesy of Tennessee State Athletics
DeMarcus James, RB • So., 5-10, 220 • Demopolis, Ala. • Jacksonville State
James carried the ball 16 times for 120 yards and a touchdown and caught a 30-yard touchdown in Jacksonville State’s 27-24 victory over Chattanooga in its home opener. The rushing touchdown in the second quarter was the first of his career and put the Gamecocks on top 17-0. Midway through the third quarter he caught Coty Blanchard’s pass and scored from 30 yards out to cap an 8-play JSU drive and put his team on top 24-10. James also had a key 13-yard rush that put the Gamecocks on the UTC 20-yard line with one second remaining in the game which setup Griffin Thomas’ 37-yard game winning field goal as time expired. He is the second different Jacksonville State player to rush for and catch a touchdown pass in the same game this season.
Trabis Ward, RB • Jr., 5-10, 200 • Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. • Tennessee State
Ward carried the ball 22 times for 114 yards and a career-best three touchdowns as Tennessee State topped rival Jackson State 38-12 in the 23rd Annual Southern Heritage Classic played at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. The junior became just the sixth TSU player to rush for three or more touchdowns in a game and first since the 2008 season (Javarris Williams). All of Ward’s touchdowns came in the second quarter, the last coming on a 47-yard scamper to put the Tigers up 21-6 heading into halftime. For his efforts Ward was named Southern Heritage Classic MVP. Ward currently ranks 10th nationally in rushing (119.0 yards/game) and sixth nationally in scoring (12.0 points/game).
Others Nominated: Wesley Kitts, Austin Peay; Erik Lora, Eastern Illinois; Matt Denham, Eastern Kentucky; Casey Brockman, Murray State; Renard Celestin, Southeast Missouri; Adam Urbano, Tennessee Tech.
Rashad Smith, LB • Jr., 6-1, 210 • Ft. Walton Beach, Fla. • Jacksonville State
Smith had a career-high 15 tackles, including 11 solo stops, in Jacksonville State’s thrilling 27-24 victory over regional rival Chattanooga on Saturday. The junior linebacker also forced a fumble that was returned by teammate Pierre Warren for a 75-yard touchdown in the opening quarter. Smith became the first JSU player to have 15 or more tackles in a game since 2009 (Alexander Henderson). Smith currently ranks 14th nationally in tackles (11.5/game) and fourth in forced fumbles (1.00/game).
Others Nominated: Earnest Smith, Austin Peay; Nick Beard, Eastern Illinois; Brandon Stanley, Eastern Kentucky; Qua Huzzie, Murray State; Tylor Brock, Southeast Missouri; Steven Godbolt III, Tennessee State; Will Johnson, Tennessee Tech; Ben Johnson, UT Martin.
Griffin Thomas, K • Jr., 5-11, 170 • Snellville, Ga. • Jacksonville State
Thomas connected on a pair of field goals, including the game-winner as time expired, in Jacksonville State’s 27-24 victory over rival Chattanooga on Saturday. The junior connected on a 33-yard field goal midway through the first quarter to give the Gamecocks a 3-0 lead. Later it was his 37-yarder as time expired that gave Jax State its first victory of the season. It marked the first game-winning field goal of Thomas’ career. The field goal capped a six-play drive that came after the Mocs had tied the game with just 39 seconds to play.
Others Nominated: Drew Geldbach, Southeast Missouri; Ronn Vinson, Tennessee State; Chad Zinchini, Tennessee Tech.
Troymaine Pope, RB • Fr., 5-9, 198 • Anniston, Ala. • Jacksonville State
After leading the team in rushing (65 yards) in his collegiate debut at nationally-ranked Arkansas last week, Pope earned his first career start against Chattanooga on Saturday and netted his first career 100-yard game. The true freshman carried the ball 12 times for 105 yards, averaging 8.8 yards/carry against one of the top defensive teams in the Southern Conference. Pope joined teammate DeMarcus James in each reaching 100 yards on the night, giving JSU multiple 100-yard rushers in the same game for the first time since 2009. It marks the second-straight week Pope has earned the OVC Newcomer of the Week honor.
Others Nominated: LeQuince McCall, Eastern Illinois; Telvin Hooks, Tennessee State; Da’Rick Rogers, Tennessee Tech.