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Tennessee-Martin 22, Jacksonville State 17: Instant analysis of JSU's road loss

JSU UTM action

Jacksonville State's Michael Matthews gets hit by TN-Martn’s Deven Sims during the JSU at UT Martin OVC football game in Martin, Tennessee. Photo by Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star

Postgame analysis of Jacksonville State's 22-17 loss at Tennessee-Martin:

THREE THINGS WORTH TALKING ABOUT

Special teams woes

Jacksonville State needs a kicker — and fast. Saturday's 22-17 loss at Tennessee-Martin revealed that again.

It's not as easy as offering a scholarship to some kid who booted a 50-yarder in a high school game. In college, kickers have to get the kick off much faster and higher. That's not an adjustment everyone can make.

JSU's Bryant Wallace missed a 21-yarder Saturday, and on fourth-and-four, Gamecocks coach John Grass bypassed a chance to try a field goal from what would've been 37 yards. JSU's fourth-down pass went incomplete.

That's three points plus three points, which equals six. JSU lost by five.

Defensive effort

It's worth noting that JSU's defense did a tremendous job saving a touchdown three times.

UTM had third-and-goal from the JSU 1, but safety Traco Williams and Jalen Choice stopped a run short of the goal line. D.J. Coleman and Tyre McKinney did the same on fourth-and-goal.

Later, when UTM completed a pass on third-and-goal from the 10-yard line, safety Marlon Bridges corralled the receiver a yard short of the end zone.

One of the bad parts about losses like this one is that they can't really celebrate their touchdown-saving tackles afterward.

Penalty issues

Jacksonville State suffered from penalties, as it has much of the season.

The Gamecocks drew five flags for 60 yards of penalties, including personal foul, defensive pass interference, face mask and offensive holding (twice).

JSU entered the game ranked third in most penalties (62 total) and penalty yards (66.3 yards a game). Oddly enough the two teams that are the most penalized (Austin Peay and Southeast Missouri) are tied with Tennessee-Martin for first place in the league.

MINI GRADES

Rushing offense — C: JSU did gain 124 yards on the ground, although 21 are subtracted because of three sacks. Even so, Michael Matthews got jammed up behind the line in critical instances.

Rushing defense — B: With the exception of a 45-yard run by Peyton Logan, JSU was solid again up front.

Passing offense — C: Zerrick Cooper didn't get much time to throw, and when he did, he didn't find many openings. He completed 16 of 36 yards for 240 yards. Usually, he's on target more often than that. K.J. Stepherson (five catches, 100 yards) had his best day as a Gamecock.

Passing defense — C: UTM gained 245 yards passing, which is a little above its average of 213. JSU didn't force any interceptions.

Special teams — F: The missed field goal hurt, but that's not what earned an "F" in this category. That honor goes to the 65-yard punt return that went for a touchdown. That was the only TD that JSU gave up in the second half.

Coaching — B: The lack of a kicker creates a real issue for John Grass and his staff. Early in the season, they saw value in going for it on fourth down when they got to the 30-, 25- or 20-yard line. Now, other teams are looking for that, and the kicking situation hasn't resolved itself.

Overall — C: This almost certainly will put JSU out of the OVC race permanently, and it's hard to imagine the FCS will award the Gamecocks a playoff bid.

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

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