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Mark Edwards: John Grass deserved this, as his Gamecocks never quit

John Grass

John Grass and his Jacksonville State football team knocked off Florida State 20-17.





Sorry, there's just not a word that's good enough to describe Jacksonville State's 20-17 win over Florida State. There's no good way to describe a game in which the winning touchdown came on a 59-yard pass on the last play.

It was such a shocker that former Florida State and NFL quarterback E.J. Manuel, now with the ACC Network, described this as the "worst loss in Florida State history."

This is one of the best wins in Jacksonville State history. And, it's one of the best wins for the man who deserves a lion's share of credit: head coach John Grass.

That loss 10 days earlier to UAB was a morale killer. Former JSU coach Bill Clark's Blazers mowed down the Gamecocks 31-0, and it left some of us wondering if Grass' bunch was going to win another game this year.

It left a vocal minority among the JSU fan base salivating at the thought that the season could become so unglued that school leadership may dump Grass, the coach they love to hate.

Either way, it looked like an ominous beginning to the season, especially when hours before JSU beat Florida State, UAB got unmasked by Georgia 56-7.

But, one of Grass' strengths is that he doesn't let one loss ruin a season. He doesn't let a few ornery fans poison the atmosphere. He's not the type to crumble in adversity.

He kept his Gamecocks pointed forward, as he's done since getting the head coaching job in 2014. He didn't let his group get too low, just as he won't let them get too high after this incredible win. That's because he doesn't get too high or too low.

His players know what to expect day to day. Grass is demanding, but with his consistent approach, his team doesn't have to guess which version of their coach they'll get each time out.

He doesn't seem to worry about things that don't matter.

Qualities like this are so valuable in a college football coach, and it's one of the large reasons JSU has won six league championships in seven full seasons under Grass.

Are there issues to fix? Of course.

There were too many penalties, with 13 for 111 yards. Florida State has the same problem, with 11 flags for 114 yards.

Heck, JSU isn't the only team with penalty problems. Nick Saban ranted hard and heavy about it after Alabama's win over Mercer today.

Grass has provided an atmosphere that allows his players to thrive. He allowed his guys a chance to succeed.

He's a really positive guy — a true Southern guy who has a big, friendly smile and a style of speaking that isn't exactly the King's English. His players like him, although if they don't respect him as his staff, they won't keep their JSU jersey very long.

Is he too positive? Maybe sometimes. But, check his record and how it stacks up against other FCS programs, and make your case that somebody with that record should grumble and yell more.

Even if that incredible, last-gasp pass from Clemson transfer Zerrick Cooper to Duke transfer Damond Philyaw-Johnson had fallen incomplete instead of going for a touchdown, this would've been a game to build upon.

JSU played hard from the start. The Gamecocks didn't quit. They didn't do everything right, but they did it 100 percent.

Isn't that the type of attitude that old-school successful coaches like Jacksonville State Hall of Famer Bill Burgess appreciate?

John Grass deserved this. And his team gave it to him.

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