Courtesy of Jacksonville State Athletics
ATLANTA â€“ The Jacksonville State football team needed overtime to escape the Georgia Dome with a hard-fought 34-27 win over upstart Georgia State on Saturday.
In a game that saw three ties and three lead changes, the No. 4 Gamecocks (3-0) pulled another one out of their hats, thanks to a touchdown run from Marques Ivory and a defensive stop in overtime. The win is JSUâ€™s third win in the final two minutes this season and puts its record at 3-0 for the first time since the 2004 season.
JSU needed four rushing plays, the last a four-yard scoring run from Ivory, to drive the 25 yards on its overtime possession. Clinging to the seven-point lead, the Gamecock defense forced a fourth-and-goal from the two for the Panthers (1-2). At the end of a night that saw JSU flagged 13 times to GSUâ€™s four, one official signaled a touchdown after watching Emmanuel Ogbuehi haul in a Kelton Hill pass with his leg lying out of bounds. As the Panthers and most of the 16,128 in attendance erupted in celebration, the call was corrected and the Gamecocks celebrated their seventh-straight win.
Ivory, a junior from Warner Robins, Ga., completed a career-high 24 passes in 32 attempts for 283 yards, also a career-best. He connected with Jamal Young for a touchdown pass and ran for 21 yards and a score on five carries.
Young, a senior from Jackson, Miss., led the JSU rushing attack with 64 yards on nine carries, thanks to 58 yards on six carries after the third quarter. In the absence of leading rusher Calvin Middleton to a foot injury, the Gamecocks spread 39 carries among five players and totaled 167 of their 450 yards on the ground. Freshman Darius Barksdale ran for 37 yards and his first career touchdown on 14 carries.
The Panthers, in their third game in program history, put the ball in the air 40 times to account for 227 of their 339 yards of total offense. Quarterback Drew Little completed 25 of his 28 pass attempts for 227 yards and an interception, while tailback Travis Evans ran for 54 yards on seven carries to led the GSU ground game.
Sophomore Keginald Harris got the Gamecocksâ€™ interception and broke up a pair of passes, the latter being on the final play of the game. He added four tackles, three behind a three-way tie between Antonio Bonner, T.J. Heath and Morrell Jones for the team lead on the afternoon.
The Gamecocks took the opening kickoff and drove down the field before stalling inside the Panthersâ€™ 10-yard line. James Esco, capped the 13-play, 69-yard drive with a 20-yard field goal that gave the Gamecocks an early 3-0 lead. That lead would be short-lived, as the Panthers would use a good return on the ensuing kick to set up a 41-yard score on a reverse by Darren McCray that gave them a 7-3 lead with 6:23 on the first quarter clock.
Jax State answered with the next possession, driving 78 yards in 11 plays to close the first quarter, setting up a four-yard touchdown pass from Ivory to Jamal Young. The Gamecocksâ€™ first offensive touchdown in the first half this season put them back on top 10-7 with 14:54 remaining in the half.
The Panthers started their next drive at their own 39 and took it into Gamecock territory before stalling. Iain Vance picked up the slack for the GSU offense, sneaking a 39-yard field goal just over the crossbar and tying the game at 10-10 with 10:38 to play.
JSU would use a late drive to reclaim the lead before the half. Blanchard scampered in from four yards out to finish off the 49-yard drive and give the Gamecocks a 17-10 half time advantage, their first lead at the intermission this season.
The Panthers started the second half with a drive, but the Gamecock defense wouldnâ€™t break once the ball got deep in their territory. Vance put three points on the board from 25 yards out, cutting the JSU lead to 17-13 with 8:34 to play in the third. The Gamecocks answered with a field goal of their own after a penalty stalled their drive inside the 10. Escoâ€™s 27 yarder was true and gave the Gamecocks a 20-13 lead with 12 seconds left in the third.
The Gamecocks couldnâ€™t wrap up GSU running back Travis Evans on the Panthersâ€™ next drive, one that was capped by a 46-yard scoring run that tied the game at 20-20 with 13:26 remaining in the game.
They did answer again, thanks to a 69-yard drive that was capped by Darius Barksdaleâ€™s first career touchdown run. The one-yard plunge gave JSU its fourth lead of the afternoon, a 27-20 advantage with 9:38 remaining on the clock.
The Panthers dealt the next blow in the slugfest, a 13-plat, 75-yard drive that was aided by a few timely penalties and a pair of key third-down conversions. Little pushed it in from the one with 3:57 to play and Vanceâ€™s kick tied it at 27-27, the third tie of the day.
The Gamecocks got the ball back with a little under four minutes to play, but they couldnâ€™t stop the clock from running out before attempting a field goal, sending the game into overtime.
Jax State opens Ohio Valley Conference play on Saturday, when they take on rival Eastern Illinois at 1:30 p.m. CT in Charleston, Ill.