Jacksonville St holds on in OT thriller in Atlanta
By Carl Prather| September 22, 2013 at 2:43 AM CDT - Updated July 2 at 10:40 PM
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.