JACKSONVILLE, Ala. – In the first meeting between the two schools since 2003, Jacksonville State got a five field goal performance from Griffin Thomas and held off North Alabama 24-21 in two overtimes in front of a crowd of 20,834 at Burgess-Snow Field.
Regulation play ended with the game tied at 18-18. Thomas’ fifth field goal of the night gave JSU a 24-21 lead in the second overtime period and a potential game-tying attempt by UNA’s Michael Schuster from 37 yards went wide right.
The win by the Football Championship Subdivision Gamecocks improved JSU’s record to 3-0. UNA, ranked No. 22 in NCAA Division II, falls to 1-1.
JSU led early and held the lead until the final minute of regulation play when the Lions got a game-tying five-yard TD pass from Luke Wingo to Lee Mayhall with just 13 seconds left.
In the first overtime period, UNA moved to the JSU 11-yard line before Schuster came on to boot a 28-yard field goal and give the Lions a 21-18 lead. Jacksonville State then answered with a 26-yard Thomas field goal, his fourth of the game, to make it 21-21 and force a second extra period.
Jacksonville went on offense first in the second overtime but UNA’s defense again held and Thomas added his fifth field goal of the night, this one from 20 yards, to make it 24-21. UNA couldn’t move the ball on its ensuing position, bringing on Schuster for his fourth field goal attempt of the night.
UNA’s defense held the Gamecocks offense in check most of the evening, allowing just one touchdown on a trick play early in the first quarter and just 257 total yards in regulation play. JSU finished with just 311 yards on 77 offensive plays. North Alabama gained 427 total yards, rushing for 195 and passing for 232.
Chris Coffey led UNA’s ground attack with 99 yards on 11 carries. Wingo was 19-of-39 passing for 232 yards and one TD.
UNA’s defense got a stop on the first possession of the game and the Lions offense moved quickly to the JSU 30-yard line before the Gamecocks forced a fumble. On the first play following the turnover, Jacksonville State’s Troymaine Pope threw a halfback pass to a wide open Markis Merrill for a 53-yard touchdown. Griffin Thomas added the extra point and JSU led 7-0 at the 12:43 mark of the first quarter.
On Jacksonville State’s next possession the Gamecocks moved to the UNA 34 before Thomas came on to boot a career-long 50-yard field goal. The kick made it 10-0 with 7:10 left in the opening period.
Another JSU scoring threat was stopped when Griffin attempted another 50-yard field goal that was partially blocked by UNA’s Shaquille Smith with 2:45 left in the first period.
UNA finally got on the scoreboard with 14:50 remaining in the half when Smith and Willie Bland tackled JSU quarterback Eli Jenkins in the end zone to make it 10-2.
North Alabama’s offense was on the move late in the second period when JAU’s Brandon Bender forced his second fumble of the half, ripping the ball from UNA’s Lamonte Thompson at the UNA 42. The Lions defense held and Thomas came on to boot a 42-yard field goal to make it 13-2 with 4:54 left in the half.
The Lions squandered another scoring opportunity on the last play of the first half when Michael Schuster pushed a 32-yard field goal attempt wide right.
UNA got its first offensive score of the night at the 2:23 mark of the third quarter when Schuster hit a 49-yard field goal to cap a 10-play, 39-yard drive. The score cut JSU’s lead to 13-5.
North Alabama drove 76 yards in 10 plays early in the fourth quarter to close the gap even further. Luke Wingo scored on a one-yard run with 11:04 left in the game to make it 13-11. The Lions try-for-two failed on an incomplete pass and the Gamecocks held on to a slim two-point lead. Chris Coffey’s 42-yard run was the key play in the drive.
The Lions got a quick stop on JSU’s offense on the next possession but a fair catch by Philbert Martial on a punt at the UNA one-yard line put the Lions in a hole. Two plays later Trey Tidwell snapped the ball over Wingo’s head for a safety and a 15-11 JSU with 8:25 left in the game.
On the ensuing free kick, the JSU offense which had only picked up two first downs in the second half, ground out two first downs and took more than five minutes off the clock before Thomas hit a 44-yard field goal. The kick made it 18-11 with 3:02 remaining in the game.
North Alabama tied the game with an 11-play, 70-yard drive that was capped by a five-yard TD pass from Wingo to Lee Mayhall with just 13 seconds left in the game. Schuster’s PAT made it 18-18.
North Alabama host Delta State on Sept. 21 at Braly Stadium in the Lions Gulf South Conference opener.
Courtesy: UNA Media Relations