Jacksonville State blasts Liberty, 48-19

libertyNo. 3/4 Jacksonville State, last year’s FCS national runner-up, jumped out to a sizeable first-half lead, allowing the Gamecocks to secure a 48-19 road win, Saturday evening, at Williams Stadium.

With the victory, the Gamecocks move to 3-1 on the season in their final game before beginning Ohio Valley Conference play, next weekend. Liberty drops its first home game since the 2014 season and falls to 1-3 in 2016.

Eli Jenkins, the 2015 FCS Quarterback of the Year, accounted for 345 of Jacksonville State’s 563 total offensive yards. He completed 14-of-22 passing attempts for 224 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing 18 times for 121 yards and two more touchdowns.

Roc Thomas also helped the visitors rush for 339 total yards. The junior running back carried the ball 14 times for 111 yards and a touchdown.

Liberty’s offense was held below the 200-yard mark for the second time this season, finishing the night with 69 plays for 181 yards (2.6 yards per play).

Jacksonville State’s continued its strong play in 2016, limiting teams in their rushing efforts. In their three wins this season, the Gamecocks have allowed a combined 138 rushing yards (North Alabama – 52; Coastal Carolina – 42; Liberty – 44).

Stephon Masha started the game under center for the Flames and completed 3-of-9 passing attempts for 12 yards. Stephen Calvert relieved Masha at quarterback midway through the first half and finished the contest completing 9-of-24 passing attempts for 125 yards and a touchdown. Both quarterbacks had one pass intercepted.

Liberty’s limited ground game was led by Frankie Hickson, who rushed nine times for 38 yards and the third touchdown of his redshirt freshman season. Carrington Mosley followed with seven carries for 32 yards. The Flames’ rushing yards were lowered by Jacksonville State recording six sacks for a total loss of 44 yards.

The Flames’ leading receiver was Dante’ Shells, who had five receptions for 86 yards and his team-leading fourth touchdown reception of 2016.

JaRon Greene led all tacklers in the game, finishing the contest with a career-high nine stops (three solo, six assisted), including two sacks. Corbin Jackson followed with eight tackles (five solo, three assisted).

Jacksonville State’s stout defense was paced by JaJuan Lee, who had seven tackles (three solo, four assisted), including an eight-yard sack. He was followed by Marlon Bridges, who had stops (three solo, three assisted) and recorded one of two Gamecocks interceptions.

Jacksonville State’s highly touted offense showcased its abilities quickly, jumping out to a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the contest.

Following a three-and-out stop by the visitors, Jenkins completed his first three passing attempts of the game. His third found a wide-open Thomas streaking down the field and he scored on a 51-yard completion at the 12:06 mark of the first quarter.

The Flames trimmed their deficit to four, 7-3, when Alex Probert knocked down a 31-yard field goal with 6:23 left in the first quarter. The scoring opportunity was created when Tyrin Holloway recorded his third interception of the year. Calvert highlighted the seven-play, 37-yard drive with a 21-yard strike to Zac Parker for his first completion of the game.

Jenkins extended the visitors’ lead to 14-3 three plays later, this time using his speed to score his 32nd career rushing touchdown. On a third-and-seven play, the redshirt senior broke a few tackles and scampered 76 yards downfield to score 91 seconds later.

The score remained the same until midway through the second quarter when Jacksonville State’s special teams helped the visitors expand their lead to 17 points.

After Liberty’s fourth three-and-out offensive series of the game, Josh Barge returned a Trey Turner punt 75 yards for a touchdown. After a missed extra point, Jacksonville State led, 20-3, with 9:24 left before halftime.

Liberty’s offense pushed during the latter part of the second quarter, trying to cut into the Gamecocks’ three-score lead. Masha tried to find B.J. Farrow on a screen play, but his pass was intercepted by Marlon Bridges.

A 10-yard pass to Thomas and a 29-yard completion to Barge set up a one-yard touchdown run by Jenkins with 1:35left, giving the visitors at 27-3 lead at the break.

The Flames narrowed the gap to 17 points, 27-10, when Calvert completed a 59-yard scoring strike to Shells with1:38 remaining in the third quarter.

However, the visitors put the game out of reach, scoring three times during the final 15 minutes of play. Thomas had a two-yard scoring run at 14:25 and Justice Owens broke free for an 87-yard touchdown run with 1:27 left to play in the game. The Gamecocks also added a 69-yard touchdown pass from Jenkins to Shaq Davidson at the fourth quarter’s 9:37mark.

Liberty also scored multiple times during the final quarter, including a safety with 5:58 left to play and a four-yard touchdown run by Hickson at 2:27.

The Flames will play their final non-conference tune-up next Saturday when Liberty hosts Robert Morris at Williams Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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