The Gamecocks came out fast. They scored on each of their first three possessions of the game, six of their first seven and seven of their first eight to open a 45-0 lead. The 55 points were the second most JSU has scored in a playoff game ever and set the OVC playoff scoring mark. The 41-point margin of victory was their largest in the playoffs. DaMarcus James rushed for 124 yards and added two more rushing touchdowns to his OVC record total. Quarterback Eli Jenkins had 115 yards each rushing and passing, and produced touchdowns both ways.
The Gamecocks kept Samford quarterback Andy Summerlin on the run all game. They held the Southern Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year to 7-of-24 passing for 81 yards and sacked him six times. Overall, they held the Bulldogs to only 201 yards – their all-time playoff low. They were particularly stout in the first half, holding the Bulldogs to only 17 yards of net offense in the first half. In holding the Bulldogs to 93 yards rushing, the Gamecocks have now held 50 opponents to less than 100 yards rushing since moving to Division I in 1995.
JSU kicker Griffin Thomas kicked two field goals (37, 47 yards) to tie Gavin Hallford’s 2007 single-season school record. He almost had three, but a 46-yard attempt in the first half smacked the right upright. Punter Hamish MacInnes averaged 48.2 yards for five punts and kicked an FCS playoff all-time best 68-yarder in the fourth quarter. Samford’s Fabian Truss, the national leader in all-purpose yardage, didn’t play and was not a factor.
Because school was on fall break all week, the Gamecocks spent the week together focusing on nothing but football. JSU coach Bill Clark said the staff has backed off on them at this stage in the season, but everyone concerned said they came out with a good plan and executed it well.
The Gamecocks showed the focus and intensity it takes to be successful in postseason play and had one of their most dominating performances not just in coach Bill Clark’s short tenure but recent memory of the program. The road gets a little tougher from here, as they go on the road next week to play a national seed they have never beaten before.