JACKSONVILLE — Struggles on the offensive line at Southeast Louisiana resulted in JSU coach John Grass announcing that all positions were open, and JSU had changes to start Saturday’s game against Chattanooga.
Ye’Majesty Sanders did not start at right tackle, giving way to Michael Shaddix, who started at left tackle against SLU. Redshirt sophomore Preston Mixon started at left tackle Saturday.
The middle three linemen remain the same … left guard Cameron Hill, center Deandre Butler and right guard Darius Anderson.
JSU lost three starters on the offensive line from last season, and Hunter Sosebee was lost to injury early in preseason camp, meaning JSU had to replace four positions. The Gamecocks gave up six sacks in the season-opening, 35-14 loss at SLU, two with quarterback Zerrick Cooper being hit as soon as he caught the snap.
Only a face-masking penalty spared JSU a safety on a would-be sack of Cooper at SLU. It gave JSU offsetting penalties on the play.
That offensive-line shuffle took a hit on Austin Kinsey’s 28-yard touchdown run at 10:09 of the second quarter.
Hill stayed down after the play and was helped off the field, not putting weight on his right leg. He did not return to action.
Freshman Mahlon Talbot entered for Hill. JSU made other shifts, putting Sanders in at right tackle and moving Shaddix down a spot, to right guard.
Butler also came up limping on Kinsey’s touchdown but stayed in the game.
Later in the half, Anderson was seen at left guard, with Sanders and Shaddix on the right side.
JSU started the second half with Sanders and Shaddix on the right side, Butler at center and Anderson and Mixon on the left side.
Speaking in the postgame news conference, Grass said he didn’t know how serious Hill’s injury is.
“Somebody fell on his ankle,” Grass said. “I don’t know if it’s a twist, what happened to it. I’m sure they’ll X-ray it tomorrow.”
In other injury news, tight end Landon Rice (knee) did not play, watching the game from the sideline in his No. 44 jersey and, otherwise, street clothes. He was injured during JSU’s loss at SLU.
With an offseason battle for the place-kicking position as the backdrop, JSU made an interesting decision in the third quarter Saturday.
Rather than kick a would-be, 44-yard field goal on fourth down and six from the Chattanooga 27-yard line, with JSU leading 21-6, JSU went for it. Quarterback Zerrick Cooper, under a rush, lofted a pass up into triple coverage, resulting in an interception just short of the goal line.
JSU went for it on fourth-and-eight from the Chattanooga 27 in the fourth quarter, with Cooper making a miraculous throw while in the grasp of tacklers, and tight end Trae Barry coming back to catch the ball.
Does JSU’s decision to go for it, rather than kick a middle-distance field goal, indicate a lack of confidence in sophomore kicker Bryant Wallace’s range?
“I’m just not that confident right now, kicking that long of a field goal,” Grass said. “Hopefully, that comes. I’m pretty confident from 20 and in right now, and, hopefully, that’s going to come.
“You hope that if you get inside the 30, you’ve got chances to make field goals, but not right now.”
JSU had to replace departed senior Cade Stinnett this season. Stinnett would normally have kicked from 44 yards or longer.
Wallace missed an extra point in the third quarter, his first extra point miss of the season. He’s 7-for-8 on extra points and has not attempted a field goal.