Mar. 28—JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville State gave up its No. 7 ranking in Football Championship Subdivision in a flurry of penalties and turnovers Sunday.
Now, the Gamecocks must go on the road in hopes of salvaging an Ohio Valley Conference title and an automatic playoff berth in a reduced, 16-team FCS playoff field.
Six turnovers, including four Zion Webb interceptions and his late-game fumble, and 126 yards on 18 penalties doomed JSU in its 13-10 loss to unranked Austin Peay on Burgess-Snow Field.
The Gamecocks (7-2, 4-1 OVC) saw their seven-game winning streak snapped ahead of a two-game road swing through Eastern Illinois and OVC-leading Murray State.
There was plenty of blame to go around. Alen Karajic missed a 49-yard field goal in the first quarter.
Most of it rested with Webb and a defense that played well enough to win, but gave up what proved to be the deciding points on a penalty-sustained drive in the second quarter.
Austin Peay improved 3-5, 3-2 headed into its home game with Murray State on April 3.
Here are three things we learned:
Remember that no-good-awful-facepalm first quarter JSU had at Tennessee-Martin? The Gamecocks turned it into a game against Austin Peay, nearly matching their 129 penalty yards from two weeks ago.
JSU trailed 13-7 at halftime after committing 12 of the game's 19 penalties to that point. The 86 penalty yards JSU ran up in the first half alone would mark the Gamecocks' second-highest game total this season.
JSU had three third-down offsides penalties and a personal foul to help sustain Austin Peay's 20-play, 75-yard drive for Ahmaad Tanner's 1-yard touchdown run, which made it 13-7 at 5:36 of the second quarter. The offsides penalties came on third down and 9 from Austin Peay's 13, third and four from the Govs' 18 and third and one from JSU's 38.
The personal foul, on JSU's Marshall Clark, came after JSU's Jamias Presley stopped Austin Peay receiver C.J. Evans at the 2 on third and goal from the 14. The Governors likely would've had to settle for a short field goal, but the automatic first down kept the drive alive for Tanner's touchdown.
It was Clark's second big penalty of the half. He also drew a conduct call in the first quarter.
Austin Peay gained seven of its 21 first downs by penalties.
2. Ample turnovers
JSU also committed four of the first half's five turnovers.
JSU's four first-half turnovers included running back Pat Jackson's third fumble of the spring and interceptions on three Webb heaves against the wind, while scrambling. Two interceptions came on passes to Barry ... one into double coverage, and the second was an overthrow to a 6-foot-7 tight end.
JSU lineman Zack Cangelosi recovered Webb's first-quarter fumble at JSU's 40.
Webb's two fourth-quarter turnovers clinched it. He threw a pass directly at Austin Peay safety Kam Ruffin, with no JSU receiver in the area. After the Gamecocks held the Governors to a missed field goal, he was sacked and fumbled.
Austin Peay ran out the clock from there.
3. Picking up the pieces
Just when JSU had seemingly regained its pre-2019 look, the Gamecocks reverted Sunday. They have to regain momentum and prevent a once-promising season from feeling like 2019, when they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
JSU can still win the OVC, but that game at Murray State (5-0, 5-0) on April 11 could become a game to determine which team makes the playoffs. The Racers beat EIU 41-27 on Sunday.
Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.