JSU football: Clark appreciates historic nature of Gamecocks' win
by Al Muskewitz
Dec 01, 2013 | 2731 views |  0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jacksonville State coach Bill Clark during his team's 55-14 defeat of Samford in the first round of the FCS playoffs in Jacksonville. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
Jacksonville State coach Bill Clark during his team's 55-14 defeat of Samford in the first round of the FCS playoffs in Jacksonville. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
JACKSONVILLE – Bill Clark is a history guy. He made it one of his double majors, earning enough hours to be certified to teach it, when he was an undergrad at Jacksonville State.

He’s such a buff he’ll pull over to read a roadside marker or visit a battlefield. The Smithsonian is one of his favorite places to visit.

So, he had an astute appreciation for what the Gamecocks accomplished Saturday in blasting former rival Samford 55-14 in the first round of the FCS Playoffs.

It was the Gamecocks’ first Division I playoff win in four tries and their first postseason victory since winning the 1992 Division II national championship. It also gave the Ohio Valley Conference, a league that hadn’t won a playoff game since 2000, two playoff winners on the same day for the first time since 1991.

“I think that’s huge,” Clark said Sunday. “I don’t want to downplay it because we talked about it a good bit. It was a huge motivator for us because we do feel like we’re playing for a lot of folks.

“To make history, that was important to our guys. Even though we all weren’t here, it was a monkey on our back as a program. We wanted to achieve something nobody had done before. Now that we’ve achieved that, it’s on to the next step. It was a big deal to us.”

That next step is a second-round matchup with No. 6 national seed McNeese State (10-2) 6 p.m. Saturday in Lake Charles, La.

Next: Jax State at McNeese State, Saturday, 6 p.m., 91.9 FM, ESPN3

The Gamecocks, 10-3 for the first time in the history of their program, charged into the history books like one of those advancing armies Clark used to study.

The 55 points were the most they had scored in a playoff game since putting 63 on West Chester in 1988. The 41-point margin of victory was their largest ever in postseason play. The 93 yards rushing and 201 yards total they allowed were their all-time playoff low.

They were particularly dominant in the first half, opening a 38-0 lead while holding the Bulldogs to only 17 yards of net offense. They scored on six of their seven possessions in the half, then added to the lead when Telvin Brown went 67 yards on the first play of the third quarter.

DaMarcus James rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns, running his record total to 25. Eli Jenkins ran for 115 yards, threw for 115 yards and produced a touchdown each way before yielding to Kyle West in the fourth quarter.

“To have that goal to get in and do more than just get in ... is huge,” Clark said. “We had to find a way to get in and then to play really, really well ... just made it that much better. I don’t think any of us would’ve been satisfied just getting in.”

Now it’s on to McNeese, a team they played regularly as members of the Southland Football League but haven’t met since 2002. The Cowboys are making their 15th playoff appearance and first since 2009, when they lost 49-13 to New Hampshire in the first round. They haven't won a playoff game since 2002.

These teams are a lot alike in more ways than their recent playoff histories. Both score a lot of points. Both want to establish the run, but can run and throw. Both barely beat Division II opponents and both have beaten FBS teams.

For the second playoff game in a row, the Gamecocks will be facing their opponent’s conference offensive player of the year. McNeese quarterback Cody Stroud has thrown for 2,680 yards, a school-record 27 touchdowns and been intercepted only five times.

Also of note, return specialist Diontae Spencer tied an FCS record this year with three special team touchdowns among his five against Stephen F. Austin, and backs Marcus Wiltz (1,261) and Kelvin Bennett have combined for nearly 2,000 yards rushing.

“We know they’re going to be a good team,” Clark said. “At this point the teams should be getting better and tougher.”

Sports Writer Al Muskewitz: 256-235-3577. On Twitter @almusky_star.
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