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Apr. 28—JACKSONVILLE — The Jacksonville State Gamecocks will be at JSU Stadium on Sunday to play an FCS quarterfinal game, but not all of Gamecock Nation will be there.
Because of the NCAA's COVID-19 protocols for all postseason competition, JSU's Marching Southerners band, the cheerleaders and mascot Cocky won't be allowed to perform at the game.
"Sore subject with me," JSU coach John Grass said today when asked about not having them Sunday when JSU (10-2) hosts Delaware (6-0) at 2 p.m.
Grass discussed that and other subjects today at his regular game-week news conference with reporters who cover JSU and Delaware.
1. Band flap
Grass confirmed he contacted Ken Bodiford, JSU's director of bands, to let him know the Marching Southerners were missed this past weekend when the Gamecocks beat Davidson 49-14 at home.
The NCAA's COVID-19 protocols are the same for all sports, regardless of whether they're inside or outside.
"I would write an appeal to that to the NCAA, if I could, to get that changed," Grass said. "I think we've got one of the best bands in the country. Having to play without them really affects our atmosphere. I think we've got one of the best home atmosphere's in the country because of the Southerners and the whole Gamecock Nation with the cheerleaders and Cocky the mascot.
"When you've got the Southerners in the corner, a 550-member band playing, that affects your atmosphere a lot. When you looked up there and there were empty seats the other day, we truly missed them."
2. Sunday football
All four of the FCS playoff quarterfinals will be Sunday, which will mark the seventh time this spring the Gamecocks have played on a Sunday.
ESPN requested the games be moved to Sunday because Saturday coverage would've conflicted with the final day of the network's NFL draft coverage.
ESPN2 will carry the James Madison/North Dakota quarterfinal Sunday at 5 p.m., followed by Southern Illinois/South Dakota State at 8. The ESPN3 online streaming platform will broadcast JSU/Delaware and Sam Houston/North Dakota State at 2 p.m.
"I thought we were done with (Sunday games) until ESPN stepped in," Grass laughed. "I am glad that we've got FCS games on ESPN2. I wish we would've got on one of those (slot)."
He added that he's not a fan of Sunday games.
"But today going into practice I'm pretty much a fan because we've got an extra day of prep," he said. "I don't think that'll hurt either team."
3. About Delaware
Like Jacksonville State, Delaware has had a strong season defensively. The Blue Hens are fourth nationally in total defense, second in scoring defense and second in passing efficiency defense. JSU is 14th, 12th and 12th in those categories.
JSU is 11th nationally against the rush, while Delaware is 21st. IN rush offense, JSU is No. 15, and Delaware is No. 24.
"I think they play a lot like we play," Grass said. "We want to stop the run; they want to stop the run, defensively. We want to run the ball; they want to run the ball, offensively. So, it's a similar matchup there. Both teams are really good at both of those things."
4. Injury picture
Grass proclaimed JSU healthy and ready for Sunday's game. Defensive lineman Anthony Nesby went down briefly in this past week's win over Davidson but returned to finish the game.
"He's back practicing and doing well," Grass said. "I think the week off before the Davidson game really got our legs under us, and anytime you play a triple-option team like Davidson, you worry about injuries coming out of that game because you're going to get cut a lot and things like that.
"Nesby was really our only casualty. He got a little banged up there, but he finished the game and has been fine all week."
5. Confidence builder
First-round games haven't always been good to JSU, which is 4-6 in FCS openers since moving up from Division II in the 1990s.
Saturday's comfortable five-touchdown win over Davidson was only the second playoff-opening victory in that stretch by more than a touchdown. Grass said the win helped build some confidence.
"I think the playoff win helped, for sure," Grass said.
He added, "Confidence with a young football team helps a lot. I think going into this game you're going to deal with two really confident football teams. They've got a really good team; we've got a really good team. I think it's going to be everything everybody expects it to be. It's going to be a great football game. I don't think either team has an advantage as far as confidence."
Senior Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.