JACKSONVILLE — That was brutal. It was ugly.
That game got hit by the Ugly bus, which then backed up and ran over this one a second time.
Playing on homecoming, Jacksonville State fell 31-14 to Southeastern Louisiana, in a game the Gamecocks led 14-13 entering the fourth quarter.
The good thing is that this wasn't an ASUN Conference game, so JSU still has the best league record.
Little else was good for JSU on this homecoming Saturday. Southeastern did all the things that Rich Rodriguez wants his Gamecocks to do. They ran the ball, closed down the opposing run game, made lots of first downs, kept the ball a long time and didn't turn over the ball while gaining a pair of takeaways.
JSU was limited to a pair of big plays: a 53-yard touchdown run by Anwar Lewis early in the first quarter and a 64-yard scoring pass from Zion Webb to a wide-open Ahmad Edwards just before halftime.
That gave the Gamecocks a 14-10 lead with 1:07 left in the first half, but a 55-yard run on a fake punt set up Southeastern for a field goal.
Rich Rodriguez lamented that his team wasn't ready for the fake. He said that with the Gamecocks applying a high-pressure rush to the Southeastern punter, they should've been much more ready for a possible fake.
Afterward, in the postgame news conference, JSU's Rich Rodriguez gave "outcoached” as one of the reasons for the loss, and when asked to elaborate, he mentioned play calls in general and the fake punt specifically.
Perhaps a bigger concern about the fake is that Southeastern was willing to try it from its own 27-yard line. Southeastern was betting that if the Gamecocks snuffed it, they wouldn't do much damage with only a minute left in the game.
Even after the field goal, JSU didn't seem as if it was in bad shape. Perhaps Rich Rod's team could slog through this one.
But the offense struggled so badly. In the second half, the Gamecocks crossed the 50-yard line only twice. They reached the Southeastern 48 the first time, threw two incomplete passes and punted. They got to the Lions’ 49 the second time and promptly threw an interception.
Without the offense grinding away some clock and allowing the defense a break, JSU couldn't hold off an athletic Southeastern team forever.
In hindsight, perhaps Rich Rod should've gone with backup quarterback Aaron McLaughlin for a longer period. He got in the game long enough to throw an incomplete pass, but Webb got the lion's share of the snaps.
Webb didn't practice much this past week as he recovered from a foot injury suffered last week against North Alabama. Rich Rod said he didn't get much work during the week but was healthy to play against Southeastern.
We've seen in the past that Webb is at his best when he gets lots of preparation during the week.
Still, there were issues that weren't his fault. At critical times, he received a snap from center that pulled him off his normal set, which caused a split-second delay in running the play.
Rich Rod said that Webb is the team's best quarterback and really wanted to play. It's understandable that as a coach you want to go with your guy, even if others in the stands (and the press box) are wondering why there isn't a change.
Rodriguez figured this one would be tough. He acknowledged that Southeastern was a better team than its 3-3 record would've indicated. The Lions had gotten better defensively all season, and they're tough on offense, with four different people taking snaps behind center and running a variety of plays.
When you're behind on the scoreboard, it's late in the game, and your defense feels like it's been on the field forever, it's difficult to chase down all those different looks that Southeastern gave.
Maybe this one could be summed up on the two-point play the Lions ran after scoring a touchdown to go up 19-14.
They ran a reverse with wide receiver Gage Larvadain running left. Everyone else was on the right side of the field, except a lone JSU defender between Larvadain and the goal line. But the Southeastern quarterback, Cephus Johnson had slipped into the end zone.
The defender could drop back to cover, and Larvadain would trot into the end zone. He instead rushed Larvadain, who tossed the ball to a wide-open Johnson. On that one, JSU was doomed no matter what.