“There’s a statement in steel,” then JSU coach Jack Crowe said at the Gamecocks’ 2009 preseason media day, “but the statement in flesh, blood and bone down there on the field has got to be made, too.”
It’s been made. Finally.
It was made four years and a coaching change later, in the Gamecocks’ fourth season in current-day Burgess-Snow Field at JSU Stadium.
It was made by a JSU team playing under a new coach, Bill Clark, who was hired after Crowe was fired in December.
But it was made, emphatically, in JSU Stadium and can make again Saturday, when the playoff-chasing Gamecocks (8-2) play at second-ranked Eastern Illinois.
The statement, made this past Saturday, went something like this: Jacksonville State 68, Eastern Kentucky 10.
Yes, that Eastern Kentucky, the traditional Ohio Valley Conference power that erased a 24-point deficit in seven minutes on the same turf two years ago.
It’s the same Eastern Kentucky that had blown out JSU in Richmond in 2010 and 2012, and the statement could have been more emphatic. But for a big hit and fumble at the Colonels’ 1-yard line, it could have been 75-10.
It was a statement in flesh, bone and blood about what JSU football can be under Clark, a fact that even he acknowledges.
“I try to shy away from anything that would be perceived as arrogant or cocky,” he said. “That’s not who I am, but that was special. The whole thing was just special. I don’t know any other way to say it.”
For a quick review, JSU led EKU 40-3 at halftime.
The Gamecocks outgained the Colonels 503-213 despite a near-10-minute disadvantage in time of possession, averaging 7.4 yards a play to EKU’s 2.6.
JSU’s 14 possessions resulted in a punt, field goal, touchdown, touchdown, fumble, touchdown, touchdown, punt, touchdown, field goal, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown and touchdown.
And it wasn’t like EKU’s season was tanking. They arrived at 6-3, with one of those losses coming at Louisville and another at Eastern Illinois. The Colonels had just blown out Tennessee State 44-0.
Yes, that Tennessee State, the one that handled JSU 31-15 on Oct. 12.
Eastern Kentucky carried a four-game win streak into Jacksonville.
“This wasn’t a bunch of rootie-toots,” Clark said. “This was a good team that’s well coached. It was an important game to them. They were playing their best ball.
“I mean, I really was really worried: could we stay with them?”
Turns out, yes JSU can -- at least for a little while, before leaving the Colonels behind. It took less than a quarter for JSU to mount a double-digit lead.
It seems these Gamecocks can put their claws on the collective throat of a good team and keep them there. In so doing, they made a statement … things have changed around here.
And boy, JSU fans were sure ready for change. They’ve been sitting on their statement in steel waiting for that statement on the field.
Former JSU coach Bill Burgess, for whom the field is named, was one of them Saturday. He and Clark talk once a week and were on the phone as Clark walked into his weekly news conference Monday.
Clark was mostly listening to his cell phone.
“He was just, I think, just so proud,” Clark said later. “To have him call me and say what that game meant and how excited (he was), I mean, I couldn’t get him off the phone. He was so excited.
“I hope he don’t mind me sharing that.”
Chances are, Burgess doesn’t mind.
The bet here is that JSU fans are as glad to hear it as they were to see their team finally make that long-awaited statement on the field Saturday.
Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @jmedley_star.