Tennessee-Martin at No. 9 Jacksonville State: game outlook, check ESPN+ to watch the Gamecocks

·3 min read

Sep. 24—Pregame analysis as Jacksonville State plays host to Tennessee-Martin on Saturday:

The game

What: Jacksonville State (2-1) vs. Tennessee-Martin (2-1).

Rankings: JSU is No. 9 in the STATS Perform FCS poll, No. 9 in AFCA FCS Coaches Poll; UTM received a vote in the coaches poll.

When: 3 p.m. Central time

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

Line: TBD.

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: Quarterback Zerrick Cooper (knee) and safety Nicario Harper (ankle) did not play against North Alabama and are questionable this week. Safety Jeremiah Harris, considered the quarterback of JSU's defense, was lost for the season with a dislocated elbow in JSU's season-opening loss to UAB. 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.

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: Cooper established his place atop the JSU career passing lists, throwing his 62nd and 63rd touchdown passes at Florida State on Sept. 11. 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. Old friends: UT-Martin remains in the Ohio Valley Conference, the league JSU left to join the ASUN starting this season. The Gamecocks and Skyhawks have played 42 times, 20 times at JSU. JSU has a 34-8 lead in the series, 17-3 at home, and won their last meeting as OVC rivals, 37-20, in March.

Key matchup

JSU front seven vs. UTM run game: Martin has averaged 233.7 rushing yards per game through a loss to FBS member Western Kentucky and victories over FCS members Samford and Northwestern State. JSU commits to stopping the run, at the expense of giving up passing yards against an injury-depleted secondary.

Player of the week

Malik Feaster, junior, 6-foot-0, 187 pounds, cornerback: With UNA threatening to score and take a 17-6 lead Saturday, Feaster returned a fumble out of the end zone 100 yards for a touchdown to change the game, putting JSU up 13-10. His 100-yard return set a new FCS record, breaking the mark 99 yards, held by three players.

By the numbers

5: JSU has given up just five runs of 20 yards or more in its past 15 games.

5, 2.0: Including Feaster's fumble return and Jaylen Swain's 39-yard interception return against UNA, JSU has scored five defensive touchdowns since the start of the 2020 season, the most of any FCS team.

70: JSU's 27-24 victory over UNA last week notched eighth-year JSU head coach John Grass' record at 70-22.

Prediction

UTM has always played JSU tough, and JSU has injuries. The Gamecocks are playing at home, so give them a slight edge.

JSU 28, UTM 24

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

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