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Junior DaMarcus James ran for a school-record five touchdowns and the Jacksonville State defense shut down Austin Peay in rolling to a 42-10 Ohio Valley Conference win on Saturday evening.
James tied the OVC record for rushing touchdowns in a game and broke the school record of four that was set on the same field by Cedric Johnson in 2007. He finished the day with 102 yards on 19 carries and ran his season touchdown total to 17 and his career number to 23. After leading the Gamecocks (7-2, 3-2 OVC) to the win over the Governors (0-9, 0-5 OVC), he now ranks second in school history in rushing touchdowns in a season and eighth on the career list.
James' production was plenty on a day that saw the Gamecock defense hold the Austin Peay offense to just 245 yards, but JSU got more from freshman wide receiver Josh Barge. The native of Carrollton, Ga., caught nine passes for 115 yards, running his season total to 40 catches for 569 yards, breaking Bubba Long's JSU freshman record of 34 catches for 540 yards in 1966.
Barge was the favorite target of sophomore quarterback Kyle West, who finished the day with 188 yards on 18-for-30 passing, in making his first career start for the Gamecocks. Sophomore Bo Billups added a career-high 47 rushing yards, while sophomore Telvin Brawn ran seven times for 32 yards and caught three passes for 32 yards for the JSU offense.
The Gamecock defense rose to the occasion to limit its opponents to less than 300 yards of total offense for the second-straight week and really buckled down in the final three quarters. After the Govs gained 104 yards in the first quarter, JSU held them to just 141 yards over the final 45 minutes. Most of their production came from running back Omar Williams, who ran for 179 yards on 35 carries, exactly half of his team's 70 total plays.
The JSU defense held Peay's quarterbacks to a combined 4-for-26 passing for just 58 yards and two interceptions. Timarious Mitchell was 4-for-23 for all 58 yards and a score, while Jacob Sexton threw two picks in three pass attempts. Junior Jamaal Johnson, who made his first career start at safety for the Gamecocks, led JSU with eight tackles, while junior Caleb Lawrence and senior Barry Stafford each made a career-high seven stops on the front line.
In addition to limiting Peay's passing efficiency, JSU intercepted two passes for the first time this season and had five tackles for a loss. Junior Rashod Byers made the first and returned it 95 yards to get JSU on the board in the first quarter, and senior Rob Gray made his fifth career pick in the second quarter and returned it all the way down to the 3-yard line.
Austin Peay's offense hogged the ball in the first quarter, staying on the field for 11:23 of the first 15 minutes of the game. The Govs also outgained JSU 104-18 in the quarter, but the Gamecock defense stepped up to get the scoring started.
With 2:06 left in the quarter, Byers stepped in front of a Jacob Sexton pass into the flats and took it 95 yards for the game's first score. The sixth-longest interception return in school history would be the first big play for a JSU secondary that took control of the game early on.
The Govs used the ground to generate their early momentum, but when they needed to throw it wasn't there. Quarterbacks Timarious Mitchell and Jacob Sexton combined to go 1-for-17 passing for just 16 yards and two interceptions in the first half, while the Gamecocks used that defense to build an early lead and take a 28-3 lead into the halftime locker room.
James scored three touchdowns in the second quarter, the first Gamecock to do so in one quarter since Jamal Young at Eastern Illinois in September of 2010. JSU countered Peay's lopsided first quarter of total offense by gaining 139 yards to the Govs' 42 in the second quarter. Omar Williams carried the load for Peay in the first half with 120 of the Govs' 146 yards on 22 carries.
JSU picked up in the third quarter where it left off in the second. After an Austin Peay three-and-out to start the half, the Gamecocks put together its longest drive of the night. The 10-play drive went 61 yards and finished with James' fourth score, and after Peay's lone touchdown late in the quarter, James scored his final and record-breaking score on a 40-yard scamper with 23 seconds left in the quarter.
The Gamecocks return home for their first game on Burgess-Snow Field in four weeks on Saturday, when they host Eastern Kentucky at 3 p.m. The game will also feature the Marching Southerners annual reunion and Military Appreciation Day, where anyone with a military ID will receive free admission for them and a guest.