The junior safety from Marbury returned an interception 70 yards for a third-quarter touchdown that stretched the Gamecocks’ lead to 31-10.
He felt he needed it to make up for an earlier shortcoming.
“When they scored their first touchdown, that was my guy who scored it, so I felt like I let the defense down,” he said. “I had to make up for it some way and when I saw the pick come my way and 83 (Andrew Robustelli) dropped it and it touched me, I knew I wasn’t going to be tackled.
“And my defensive players, they had a nice little convoy set up for me, so it was an easy six.”
Warren has a nose for the ball and a nose for the end zone. The pick-6 Saturday gave him a defensive touchdown in each of his first three seasons with the Gamecocks.
He returned a fumble for a touchdown last season against Chattanooga and had a 98-yard interception return for a touchdown as a freshman against Tennessee State.
“On defense it’s hard for us to do that, so every time I touch the ball, I just try to score,” he said. “I really feel like I really can’t be tackled — just keepin’ it real.”
The way Jacksonville State coach Bill Clark sets up his depth chart, the player who performs the best is the one gets the chance to be the starter.
Given that approach, it would natural to assume redshirt freshman Eli Jenkins would be back working with the first team when the Gamecocks return to practice this week given his showing in Saturday’s 48-13 win over Jacksonville.
Max Shortell earned his first JSU start based on his showing in the opener, but was ineffective early against the Dolphins. Jenkins came in, made plays with his legs and led the offense to a bunch of points.
Clark said one might assume Jenkins goes back with the ones this week, but in the immediate aftermath of the game he seemed non-committal on a starter going forward. He did say, however, there would be no quarterback controversy.
“Now you’re going to come look at who we originally thought we might be,” Clark said. “That’s how Eli was ahead, yet there are some things he’s got to do better. We’re going to be a work in progress. I hope everybody bears with them because they’re learning as they go.”
For his part, Jenkins said he would take the week as it came.
“Monday, me and him are both going to go at it,” Jenkins said. “We fight for the position every day. When one of us does good, we clap hands. When we do bad, we tell each other what we thought we did wrong. We’re just going to keep going at it each week.
“Whoever starts on Saturday, they start. I feel like both of us can play. It doesn’t matter whoever the guy, we think we can win.”
The Gamecocks are now 47-18-3 in openers since moving into their current stadium in 1946 and have won eight in a row.
Clark became the seventh head coach to win his home debut.
Making a point
The Gamecocks are now 55-9 when scoring 30 points or more in a game.
The 48 they scored Saturday were the most since getting 48 in that wild come-from-ahead loss to Eastern Kentucky in 2011.
The Gamecocks will look to make it 3-0 for the first time since 2010 next week when they step out of division to play Division II North Alabama.
The last time the Lions came to JSU — 2003 — they stunned the Gamecocks 28-16. That UNA team was led by a quarterback — Will Hall — who nine years later was a finalist for the JSU coaching job that ultimately went to Bill Clark.
Apparently learning that lesson, the Gamecocks beat the next (and last) non-Division I team they played — Emporia State, 26-15, in the 2004 season opener.
The Gamecocks are 3-1 against non-Division I opponents since 1997, the first year they were in a Division I conference.
If they do win the game next week, Clark and Jim Fuller will be the only football coaches in JSU history to start their Gamecocks head coaching careers 3-0. Fuller won his first five games on the way to an 11-3 season and a loss to Lehigh in the Division II national championship game.