It shouldn’t have been that surprising. JSU coach Bill Clark said after last week’s game at Tennessee-Martin the Gamecocks were going to be wearing red at the game.
The team came out for warm-ups in white pants, then were surprised when they got back in the dressing room to see the reds in their stalls. They wore red tops.
“It was a spark,” linebacker Dustin Gayton said after the 31-15 loss. “Coach wanted us to have a spark, wants us to have a lot of energy coming out. When he told us we had red pants in the locker room it definitely brought a little bit of excitement toward the game.”
It was the eighth time JSU has worn red pants since joining the OVC. The Gamecocks are 5-3 in those games and had won their last four, as recently as last week’s game at Tennessee-Martin. It’s the first time they’ve worn them at home since the 2009 rout of Tennessee-Martin, the only other time they wore them at home.
“It’s just something the players have been asking for,” Clark said. “We just totally surprised them with it. We want to be disciplined, but we still want to make it fun for them.
“I’m pretty traditional — I don’t know if I’ll do it again — but they loved it.”
Clark has spoken often of seeking a balanced offense and the numbers before Saturday seemed to back his desire.
The Gamecocks were one of 29 FCS teams going into Saturday’s games whose season passing and rushing offense averages were within 21 yards of each other.
JSU went into the game averaging 243.3 yards on the ground and 222.7 yards through the air.
Tennessee State, the Gamecocks’ homecoming opponent, was the most balanced of the bunch with a mere 0.5 yards separating their rushing (204.7) and passing (204.2) averages. In fact, five OVC teams were among the 29 — JSU, TSU, UT-Martin (11.7), Southeast Missouri (2.2), and Austin Peay (12.9)
The top five tightest offenses in the country entering Saturday were TSU, SEMO, Central Connecticut (2.4), Princeton (2.7), and Southeastern Louisiana (2.8).
The numbers weren’t that close Saturday. TSU had 215 yards rushing and 133 yards passing. Jacksonville State had 271 yards passing, but were held to only 21 rushing yards.
Old meets new
There was a poignant moment during pregame warm-ups Saturday when Clark, the newest JSU football coach, came to the sideline to visit with Don Salls, the winningest JSU football coach.
Salls, now 94, regularly makes it to homecoming and wanted to meet his successor 10 times removed. The two chatted for a few moments before Salls rode off the field on the back of a golf cart.
Going into the game Clark was 90 wins behind Salls on JSU’s all-time wins list.
“For him to say he was proud of how we’ve been playing and proud of what we’ve been doing … that was a neat deal,” Clark said. “He’s legendary. I see his picture every day out in front of my office.
“Being a coach’s son, (him) just a former coach, I have a lot of respect for him and what he did for our program. That’s why this one hurts even more because I want to do well for all our people, all the guys who came to see us.”
It isn’t likely JSU will invite Tennessee State back for homecoming any time soon.
The Gamecocks spoiled UT-Martin’s homecoming last week and had the tables turned on them by the Tigers on Saturday. It was the second time TSU had ruined the Gamecocks’ homecoming, beating them in 2006 as well.
Tennessee State coach Rod Reed was a big fan of JSU linebacker Rashad Smith before the game, and Saturday did nothing to ruin that feeling. Smith had nine tackles for the Gamecocks, including two for loss.
“I wish I had that 51 down there,” Reed said during the week. “He could work well with us.”
The Gamecocks have an open date next week, then return to action Oct. 26 at Tennessee Tech, where they won 37-28 last year.
It will be Tech’s homecoming. JSU spoiled the Golden Eagles’ special day in 2008, 41-17.