Jacksonville State hangs their hat on defense
No. 3 Eastern Washington University versus No. 20 Jacksonville State University Saturday, Dec. 14, 1:05 p.m. Roos Field (8,600). TV: Televised live via ESPN3 internet platform and via ESPN Gameplan. Trey Bender will handle play-by-play and the analyst is Kevin O’Connell. Webcast: ESPN3. Radio: 700-AM ESPN in Spokane with Washington Trust Bank Tailgate Show, starting 1 1/2 hours prior to kickoff. Internet Radio: www.700espn.com or www.tunein.com. Radio iPhone App: Search for “700 ESPN” and download app. An app is also available for tunein radio. Live Stats: www.ncaa.com. Weekly Coaches Show: Mondays 6 p.m. at “Epic” at Northern Quest Resort & Casino (formerly the “Q”) . . . 700-AM ESPN, www.700espn.com & via iphone app. (search for “Spokane Radio” and download app). Watch Parties: Consult EWU social media outlets for details the Friday before games. Those who may carry EWU games include “Epic” at Northern Quest Casino and Resort in Airway Heights, the Swinging Doors in North Spokane and at Eagles Pub in Cheney.
Last week's Eastern opponent, South Dakota State was known for its running game, specifically FCS rushing leader Zach Zenner and the Eagles shut him down.
Now, in their quarterfinal matchup against Alabama's Jacksonville State it's the Gamecock's defense that will stand in the way of EWU getting a step closer to their second national championship.
Jacksonville State ventures to the Northwest following their 31-10 win over McNeese State in Lake Charles, La. Saturday night.
While the Gamecocks were given a big boost from junior DaMarcus James who ran 24 times for 127 yards and three touchdowns, the other side of the ball was where the Ohio Valley Conference team was really impressive.
The Gamecocks' defense continued its stellar play in the postseason sacking No. 6 McNeese State's quarterback Cody Stroud a school-record 11 times.
They silenced the McNeese State crowd just six seconds into the contest by scoring on its first play from scrimmage after Ketrick Wolfe got an interception off of Stroud on the Cowboys' 19.
"They pressure you," EWU head coach Beau Baldwin said during this past Monday's Coaches' Show. "A lot of that credit goes to their secondary."
Jacksonville State scored 14 points off turnovers in the first half and sacked Stroud seven times to build a 21-0 lead at intermission.
James rushing effort allowed him to become Jacksonville State's all-time single-season rushing leader with 1,431 yards.
Quarterback Eli Jenkins is what Baldwin calls the "X-factor," for JSU. "We have to be able to defend all aspects of what he brings to the table," Baldwin said. Jenkins was 7-for-15 and 120 yard passing but also ran the ball 11 times for a net 97 yards.
Jacksonville State is 11-3 with three straight wins. Their march to the FCS quarterfinals the deepest advance in the NCAA playoffs since their winning the 1992 Division II national championship. The 11 wins are the most by a Gamecock squad since the '92 season. They opened the playoffs with a 55-14 win over Samford.
Like last week with South Dakota State, Saturday marks the first-ever meeting between JSU and EWU.
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.