Homecoming did not go as planned in Jacksonville.
The No. 18 Jacksonville State Gamecocks fell to the visiting Southeast Missouri State Redhawks 24-21 Saturday night. The triumph for SEMO marked the first time they had beaten JSU in Jacksonville since their move to the FCS in 1991.
Once again, the slow start for JSU came back to haunt them. After a scoreless first quarter, the Redhawks struck first in the second.
Redshirt-senior quarterback Daniel Santacaterina found receiver Kristian Wilkerson for a 15-yard score. Jacksonville State later capped off a 7-play, 72 yard drive with a two-yard run by quarterback Zerrick Cooper to tie the game at 7-all through one half.
SEMO nailed a field goal after getting great field position midway through the third quarter. That score made it 10-7, which would hold until the fourth.
The Gamecocks needed some great fourth quarter magic that has been a trademark at Burgess-Snow Field over the past few seasons.
It would not happen this time though. Santacaterina found Wilkerson again, this time for an 80-yard touchdown pass, to make it a two-score ball game.
The 17-7 advantage would shrink by seven only a couple minutes later as Cooper threw an 8-yard strike to Jamari Hester.
Leading 17-14 with under two minutes remaining, most teams would opt to run the clock down. Not Southeast Missouri State. The Redhawks scored very quickly, as Santacaterina hit Aaron Alston on a 38-yard scoring pass. With 1:47 left to play, SEMO held a 24-14 lead.
Though JSU tried their best, they could not overcome the deficit. Zerrick Cooper led them on a 10-play, 67-yard drive, and throw his second touchdown of the fourth quarter by connecting with Ahmad Edwards from close range. Sadly, the score came with only seven seconds left on the game clock, putting to rest any chance for another Gamecock score.
13,643 Jacksonville State fans and alumni packed JSU Stadium in hopes to see a key Ohio Valley Conference victory on Saturday night. Instead, they witnessed the end to the Gamecocks’ 32-game home winning streak.
On paper, JSU should have won this game ten times out of ten. The Gamecocks outgained the Redhawks 471 yards to 280. Turnovers put Jacksonville State’s chances to win in jeopardy, as the home squad fumbles three times and threw one interception.
As receiver Jamari Hester stated, “There were too many turnovers that really killed our drives. We had (471 yards) of offense and still weren’t able to score much; we have to change that.”
Zerrick Cooper completed 23 of his 52 pass attempts for 347 yards and two scores. The Clemson transfer added 25 yards and a touchdown on the ground as well.
The loss drops JSU out of the FCS Top 25 and demotes their record to 5-3 (2-2). The Gamecocks will have to play nearly perfect from here on out to win the conference and clinch a spot in the playoffs.
Up next for Jacksonville State is this weekend’s home game against Murray State. Kickoff against the Ohio Valley foe is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET/3 p.m. CT Saturday at JSU Stadium. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.