JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville State can clinch at least a share of an Ohio Valley Conference-record fifth straight championship with a win at Tennessee State on Saturday.
The Gamecocks (7-2, 6-1 OVC) came close to that not being the case last week after edging out UT Martin 21-14. JSU had to score with under a minute remaining to claim the win and stay alive for the conference title.
Jacksonville State will play a Tiger team that is 3-4 overall and 2-3 in the OVC. Much like JSU, turnovers have been killer for TSU in its losses.
“The games they have gotten beat in, they have turned the ball over,” JSU coach John Grass said. “When they play clean, they are in the game.”
The Tigers’ loss against Vanderbilt is a perfect example of that. Tennessee State held a 27-24 lead in the fourth quarter but ultimately lost to the Southeastern Conference school 31-27. The Tigers did not turn the ball over against Vandy.
TSU is averaging 31.3 points per game and has done majority of its damage through the passing game. Michael Hughes has passed for 1,241 yards in six games with nine touchdowns and four interceptions. Chris Rowland has 655 yards receiving with five touchdowns. Hughes also has Treon Harris (476 yards, five touchdowns) and DeVon Johnson (416 yards, three scores) as threats as well.
“Our defense has their work cut out for them,” Grass said. “They can score a lot of points. So we have to get some stops and create some turnovers hopefully.”
Grass wants to see his offense sustain long drives and stay away from turning the ball over. The Gamecock offense has had trouble with turnovers as they have totaled 20 (10 fumbles lost, 10 interceptions). Nine of the turnovers came in JSU’s two losses. Three more occurred last week in the last-minute victory over UT Martin.
“Hopefully we will just maintain the ball and put points on the board when we get in the red zone,” Grass said. “And keep our offense on the field. But that’s kind of tough. Schematically they are very good defensively.”
JACKSONVILLE STATE AT TENNESSEE STATE
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Hale Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.
Records: JSU 7-2, 6-1 OVC; TSU 3-4, 2-3
Series: JSU leads 10-2
Last time: JSU beat TSU 36-6 in 2017