JSU notebook: Bender makes tackles, gains a new fan
by Al Muskewitz
amuskewitz@annistonstar.com
Oct 01, 2013 | 2755 views |  0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JACKSONVILLE -- Murray State coach Chris Hatcher is a big Brandon Bender fan.

Bender, Jacksonville State’s sophomore safety, made a career-high 15 tackles in Saturday’s game against Hatcher's Racers, including 10 solos.

"No. 23, he's about as good a tackler as I've seen," Hatcher said. "He must've had 50 tackles the other night. He was an unaccounted-for player (in cover 2) so we didn't have anybody to block him. He didn't look very big, but he sure got in there. If he hadn't tackled well we probably would have had a lot of big runs. If he keeps it up, he'll get my vote when it comes time for the all-conference team."

It wasn’t the first time this year Bender has had so many tackles. He had 14 in the season opener at Alabama State. He leads the Ohio Valley Conference in total tackles and ranks second in tackles per game (9.4) behind UT Martin linebacker Ben Johnson.

"He is in a spot we expect that guy to make a lot of plays, because he can be free a lot, but at the same time he's making them," JSU coach Bill Clark said. "He's not the biggest guy in the world -- he's just a playmaker. He's definitely a guy who deserves to be singled out because he's making a lot of plays."

JSU DEFENSE: The conference and national rankings might suggest otherwise, but the Gamecocks have played some good defense this season.

They may be outside the top three in the league in rushing defense and total defense, but they are at the top where it counts most -- keeping people out of the end zone. The Gamecocks rank second in the OVC in scoring defense (36th nationally) and lead the league in red zone defense. Opponents have scored 17 times in 21 red-zone opportunities, but have only eight touchdowns. Four have come as the results of turnovers deep in their own end.

"Up to the first half of this (Murray) game, they played so good -- unbelievable -- especially from where we came from," Clark said. "I don't know that always shows up, especially if you just look at pure points, but they've played really, really well.

"That's the expectation we have here. That's how we've got to play. I've told the offense you can't expect that, but we do expect it out of them. Hopefully, we get the offense doing their thing and us doing the same thing defensively we're going to get the results we want."
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