JSU NC AT action

Jacksonville State defensive lineman Connor Christian tackles North Carolina A&T's Marquell Cartwright during the JSU vs North Carolina A&T football game in Montgomery. Photo by Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star

Postgame analysis of Jacksonville State’s 20-17 loss to North Carolina A&T:

THREE THINGS WORTH TALKING ABOUT

Quarterbacks

Zion Webb might be the future at quarterback for JSU, but for one game at least, the present is Zerrick Cooper.

The Clemson transfer played five of six series in the first half, with JSU compiling minus-11 yards in six plays in Webb's lone series. A pass interference flag took away an 18-yard completion to Michael Matthews on third-and-10.

Cooper played the whole second half and finished 24-of-38 passing for 320 yards and two touchdowns. Webb was 1-for-3 for 3 yards, with three rushes for minus-1 yard.

Penalties, penalties

Jacksonville State got flagged so many times Saturday night that it took until the third quarter before the Gamecocks had more total yards than penalty yards.

In the third period, Zerrick Cooper completed a 7-yard pass to Trae Barry, which gave JSU 100 offensive yards. At that point, JSU had 97 penalty yards on nine flags — all in the first half.

JSU wound up with 14 penalties for 149 yards.

Targeting

Jacksonville State safety Charles Crawford was called for targeting on a hit on North Carolina A&T running back Marquell Cartwright in the fourth quarter. The play came at the end of a 6-yard reception on second-and-15.

According to NCAA rules instituted in 2013, targeting means Crawford not only was ejected for the remainder of Saturday's game, but because it took place in the second half, he also must sit out the first half of JSU's next game. That's in two weeks against Mississippi Valley State.

MINI GRADES

Rushing offense — C-: It hurt to lose starting running back Tramel Terry to a leg injury, but the that doesn't explain all of JSU's struggles on the ground. Jaelen Greene broke a couple of runs, but otherwise, the Gamecocks usually went nowhere when handing it off.

Rushing defense — B: JSU did a good job against Cartwright, who doesn't play soft at all. He's a battering ram every time he gets the ball, but the Gamecocks held him mostly in check.

Passing offense — B: Cooper has an arm. That much is clear. Tight end Trae Barry is a real weapon, and so is receiver Josh Pearson, a redshirt junior who played in only one game before Saturday. He gained 147 yards on eight catches with one touchdown.

Passing defense — B: JSU gave up one passing touchdown when the Gamecocks lost a receiver near the sideline. Otherwise, they did a reasonably good job against Aggies quarterback Lamar Raynard, who's on the Walter Payton Award watch list.

Special teams — D-: Where to start? Two fumbled punt returns. A penalty called back a return on a third punt. Allowing a kickoff return for a touchdown. A penalty on an onsides kick to set up an N.C. A&T touchdown. JSU did block a field goal try, but got one blocked.

Coaching — C: Cut. Down. On. The. Penalties. Teach the players that if they must hold, interfere or commit personal fouls do it in a way that officials don't see it. All the flags killed the Gamecocks.

Overall — C: JSU has plenty to work on. The good thing is that the Gamecocks have another solid defense, and Cooper and Pearson looked especially good as a passing combo.

Sports Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.

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