Gamecocks hold off Lions in Florence 24-17

Jacksonville State played at Braly Stadium for First Time Since 1992

Gamecocks hold off Lions in Florence 24-17
Gamecocks hold off Lions 24-17 (Source: WAFF)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Jacksonville State overcame a 17-14 deficit late in the third quarter to down North Alabama 24-17 in the two school’s first meeting at Braly Stadium since 1992.

A touchdown pass from Rett Files to Jakobi Byrd with 1:57 left in the third quarter put UNA on top 17-14 but the Gamecocks scored before the end of the quarter on a one-yard Zerrick Cooper run to regain the lead at 21-17 with just four seconds left.

The only score in the fourth quarter was a 36-yard field goal by Alen Karajic to extend the lead to 24-17.

UNA had one last chance but a Hail-Mary pass from Dever was picked off by JSU’s Nicario Harper at the one-yard line as time expired.

“It’s a back and forth game, we’re up 10-7 at the half, and we come out they beat us 17-7 (in the second half),” UNA Head Coach Chris Willis said after the game. “We just couldn’t get a timely stop. We did start the game with a three and out, and we just could not we, they got down into the red zone come away. We had our opportunities.”

With the win, Jacksonville State improves to 2-1, while North Alabama falls to 0-2.

It was the 48th all-time meetings between the Lions and Gamecocks but the first in Florence since 1992. Jacksonville State leads the series 27-18-3.

“I’ve been around more than one year. And this game right here, there’s no love lost in this game on either side and I’m just real happy that we came away with the win,” Assistant Head Coach Jimmy Ogle said after the game. Ogle had Head coaching duties due to Head Coach John Grass testing positive for COVID-19. " We made a lot of mistakes, but we kept fighting, we persevered, and we found a way to win the football game."

North Alabama scored on the game’s opening possession, driving 73 yards on 19 plays before being stopped at the JSU two-yard line. Sam Contorno came on to kick a 19-yard field goal to give the Lions a 3-0 lead at 5:12 of the first quarter. The drive took 9:48 off the clock.

JSU got its first score at 5:39 of the second quarter when Cooper hit Quan Charleston with a 14-yard touchdown pass. Karajic’s PAT gave the Gamecocks a 7-3 lead.

UNA then held the lead at the half as Parker Driggers scored on a one-yard run with 19 seconds left in the second quarter. Contorno’s PAT made it 10-7 at intermission.

A one-yard TD run by Cooper with 5:24 left in the third quarter gave Jacksonville State a 14-10 advantage.

North Alabama then moved deep into JSU territory late in the third period before Dever was knocked out of the game for two plays. Files then came on and threw the go-ahead TD pass to Byrd to put the Lions back on top.

UNA finished with 276 total yards, throwing for 213 and rushing for 63. Dever was 22-of-34 for 202 yards.

JSU gained 145 yards rushing and 244 through the air for 389 total. Cooper was 15-of-25 for 244 yards, throwing for one touchdown and rushing for two.

Will Evans led UNA’s defensive effort with 13 tackles.

North Alabama has two weeks off before traveling to play Southern Mississippi.

“Yeah, I mean we’re getting close,” Willis added. “They’ve (Jacksonville State) has been doing this for a while. We’re just now, what a couple of year in. You know, we’ll be fine. It’s disappointing to not get the win, and to come this close and to have some opportunities, but, we’re gonna be OK, I feel good about what we got going here.”

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