JACKSONVILLE -- Zion Webb, a redshirt freshman who battled Zerrick Cooper for the starting quarterback job during the offseason, got playing time in both halves of JSU’s rout of Mississippi Valley State on Saturday.
He led a six-play, 43-yard scoring drive in the second quarter. His 25-yard run and 40-yard pass to Jerad Washington set up a third-quarter score.
He had JSU on the way to another score early in the fourth quarter when he had to leave the game with leg cramps. Uriah West scored on an 11-yard run, on the next play.
Freshman Chappelle Wade handled quarterbacking duties from there.
Webb finished second on the team with 59 yards on seven carries. He was 4-for-9 for 73 yards passing.
“We want to make sure a couple of times during the game he got back-to-back series,” JSU coach John Grass said. “The game flowed to where we were able to do that, and we were excited about that and how he played.”
Freshman Jason Pierce handled all punting duties, averaging 47.7 yards on three tries. Pierce also kicked off after JSU’s third touchdown of the third quarter and handled those duties until JSU’s last score, in the fourth quarter, when Stinnett returned.
Pierce punted six times for a 33.8-yard average against North Carolina A&T. Cade Stinnett punted once in that game.
The more Pierce can take on in the kicking game, the more Cade Stinnett can focus on field goals and extra points.
“We’ve got a lot of competition right now at the punter position,” Grass said. “(Jonatan) Ward is really good, too, so we’ve got great competition in practice, and it’s good enough to where Cade doesn’t have to punt.
“We’ll use Cade punting sometimes, when you’re backed up or something like that.”
Safety Traco Williams got his first career interception at JSU and looked like a wide receiver doing it.
On the first play of the second quarter, he ran down Chris Fowler’s deep heave at the Mississippi Valley State 12-yard line, turned back and returned it 45 yards to set up at JSU scoring drive.
Williams, a junior from Valley, is in his second year as JSU’s starting field safety. He’s appeared in 26 games with 12 starts.
“We kind of knew they were going to give us verticals all day,” he said. “When I was backpedaling, I kind of thought he was going to sit down, but he kept scraping. The quarterback launched it, and I went and got it.”
After JSU ran up 14 penalties for 149 yards against A&T, penalties became an issue. They Gamecocks did much better Saturday.
Of their 50 yards on five penalties, 30 yards came on two conduct calls after scoring plays. Both were assessed on the ensuing kickoffs. Running back Jaelen Greene drew one of those conduct calls after scoring the game’s first touchdown. Lineman Branquavious Bussey drew a conduct call after an extra point in the second quarter.
JSU had no penalties in the second half Saturday, despite playing several reserves.
“We didn’t have by maybe one, unsmart football play with the celebration deal,” Grass said. “Other than that, you’re going to have a pass interference every now and then, a hold call every now and then.
“We cleaned that up and didn’t have any turnovers. I think that’s what kept the game moving in a positive direction for us.”
Reserve running back Uriah West saw action in the second half and wound up a big mover on the day, scoring on runs of 12, nine and 11 yards.
He finished with 57 yards on six carries, second only to Greene among running backs.