NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Ohio Valley Conference portion of Jacksonville State’s schedule is complete with another championship trophy.
Zerrick Cooper threw three touchdown passes as the Gamecocks defeated Tennessee State 41-14 at W.J. Hale Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Thanks to Murray State’s last-second victory over Southeast Missouri State, Jacksonville State (8-2, 7-1) became the first league member ever to win five consecutive outright football championships.
“I’m just very, very proud of our football team,” Jacksonville State coach John Grass said. “I thought we came out and played well on both sides of the ball and took care of business. We thought we would be able to throw the football and we were able to do that.
“I think offensively right now we’re like a streak shooter in basketball shooting threes; we’re really on or really off. We have to be more consistent.”
Now Jacksonville State turns its attention to the regular-season finalé against second-ranked Kennesaw State (9-1) and a showdown with major FCS playoff implications. That one will be the first football played at SunTrust Park in Atlanta, home of the MLB’s Braves. Fox Sports Southeast will broadcast the game starting at 2 p.m.
Jalen Choice returned an interception 54 yards for a touchdown and Yul Gowdy had a 15-yard pick returned for a score during a four-minute span of the fourth quarter as Jacksonville State’s defense turned the game into a rout. It marked JSU’s first game with multiple interceptions for touchdowns since returning three for scores against Eastern Kentucky in 2016.
Traco Williams also had an interception in the end zone for the Gamecocks to halt Tennessee State’s opening drive to begin the third quarter.
Cooper completed 20-of-30 passes for 272 yards. He now has 23 touchdowns this year, tying the school record for single-season touchdowns passes thrown held by Ryan Perrilloux (2009). He also led the Gamecocks in rushing with 50 yards on 14 carries.
Cooper threw two first-half touchdowns to Jamari Hester and another to Josh Pearson as JSU built a 27-7 lead by intermission. Pearson’s 10-yard scoring catch midway through the first quarter was his 16th of the season, extending his school record. Hester caught a team-high nine passes, the most of his career.
The Gamecock defense delivered a key stop just before halftime to take a 20-point lead to the locker room.
The Tigers (3-5, 2-4) drove 82 yards in 12 plays and had the ball on JSU’s 1 with 18 seconds left. After a timeout, linebacker Christian Wafford crashed through and sacked TSU quarterback Michael Hughes, forcing a fumble as time ran out.