North Alabama at No. 10 Jacksonville State: game outlook, check ESPN+ to watch the Gamecocks

·4 min read

Sep. 18—Pregame analysis as Jacksonville State plays host to North Alabama today:

The game

What: Jacksonville State (1-1) vs. North Alabama (0-2).

Rankings: JSU is No. 10 in the STATS Perform FCS poll, No. 11 in AFCA FCS Coaches Poll; UNA is unranked.

When: 6 p.m. Central time

Where: Burgess-Snow Field at JSU Stadium (24,000).

Line: JSU is an 8.5-point favorite, according to Vegasinsider.com.

Radio/Online: WLJS-FM, 91.9 (Jacksonville); WRBZ-FM, 95.5 (Montgomery) WVOK-FM, 97.9 (Oxford); 98.1 (Gadsden); WKXX-FM, 102.9 (Attalla); Online: ESPN+

Four-down territory

1. Injuries, injuries: Add safety Yessman Green (ankle) to the list. The freshman who stepped in for Jeremiah Harris at Florida State is among what JSU coach John Grass called "game-time decisions"' this week. Harris, considered the quarterback of JSU's defense, was lost for the season with a dislocated elbow in JSU's loss to UAB two weeks ago. Also, wide receiver Dave Russell III suffered a broken leg in an automobile accident and is out for the season. Running back Uriah West (shoulder) and quarterback Zion West (knee), injured in the spring, are questionable to return in the fall. Defensive lineman J-Rock Swain (knee) is expected to return, but questionable for this week.

2. Local connections: JSU's two-deep includes wide receiver Dave Russell III (Oxford), defensive lineman Jaylen Swain (Oxford), cornerback Yessman Green (Jacksonville) and linebacker Marshall Clark (Munford). The roster also includes running back Ron Wiggins (Jacksonville), wide receiver La'Derrick Bell (Saks), safety Jett Smith (Wellborn), linebacker Slade Alexander (Cherokee County), linebacker Tristan Wells (Talladega), safety Noah Fuller (Ohatchee), safety Ashton Gulledge (Hokes Bluff), defensive back Luke Jackson (Jacksonville), offensive lineman Omaurion Pope (Jacksonville), tight end Brock Rechsteiner (Etowah), linebacker Jackson Moses (Jacksonville), defensive lineman Nahum Horton (Cherokee County), offensive lineman Will O'Steen (White Plains), wide receiver Evan Delp (Coosa Christian), long snapper Brody Wood (Clay Central), defensive lineman Jackson Luttrell (Westbrook Christian) and defensive end Grady Trantham (Alexandria).

3. Coop De Ville: Zerrick Cooper established his place atop the JSU career passing lists, throwing his 62nd and 63rd touchdown passes at Florida State. He broke his long-standing tie with Ed Lett at 61. Cooper also threw for 242 yards at FSU, surpassing Eli Jenkins for first all time in passing yards at 7,819. Jenkins still has a comfortable lead in total yards, with 11,448 to Cooper's 8,649.

4. A-PEAK: Saturday's game will mark this season's first peak into life in the new ASUN Conference. UNA will begin play in the ASUN after playing out its obligations in the Big South. JSU and UNA are old rivals from their Division II years, and JSU holds a 27-18-3 lead in the series, including a 12-1-1 run in the last 14 meetings. JSU won 24-17 at UNA last fall.

Key matchup

JSU vs. the hype: JSU showed what it can do against Florida State, and the Gamecocks' stunning upset in Tallahassee instantly became the toast of the college football world. The question becomes how quickly and how well the Gamecocks come down off of that high to prepare for a game against competition their own size.

Player of the week

Ahmad Edwards, sophomore, 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, wide receiver: Edwards broke wide open and caught Cooper's record-breaking touchdown pass, a 23-yarder, to bring JSU within 17-14 at FSU last week. Edwards also played a key role in Cooper's dramatic, 59-yard touchdown pass to Damond Philyaw-Johnson on the game's final play, hustling downfield to throw the clinching block near the goal line after Philyaw-Johnson cut inside to elude two FSU defenders.

By the numbers

4: JSU has beaten four FBS opponents since 2010, tied for second among FCS programs.

44.3: Punter Jack Dawson's average on 16 punts through two games. That factors in one blocked punt. He has three punts of 50-plus yards and has pinned opponents inside their 20-yard line six times.

69: The victory at FSU was the 69th victory of Grass' time as JSU's head coach. He's in his eighth season. At 69-22, he has the best start through 91 games of any coach in JSU history.

Prediction

This is JSU's first home game at full capacity since the COVID-19 pandemic started, and the Gamecocks can anticipate a good crowd coming off of the victory at FSU. Potential should meet the moment.

JSU 28, UNA 14

Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.

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