Football Preview: Murray State at Jacksonville State

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Murray State Racers (4-4, 2-2 OVC) at #21 Jacksonville State Gamecocks (5-3, 2-2 OVC)
Saturday, October 26 3:00 p.m. CT
Burgess-Snow Field at JSU Stadium (24,000) Jacksonville, Ala.
TV:...................................................................... ESPN3
Live Stats:........................................ http://bit.ly/2J4kLYO
Series Record:..................... Jacksonville State leads 14-2
Last Meeting:........ Jacksonville State won 42-15 (10/27/18)
Mitch Stewart at Murray State:..................... 19-33 (5 yrs.)
Mitch Stewart Overall:.............................................. same
John Grass at Jacksonville State:................. 57-15 (6 yrs.)
John Grass Overall:................................................. same
Murray State Last Week:..... L, 34-27 vs. Eastern Kentucky
Jacksonville State Last Week: L, 24-21 vs. Southeast Missouri

GAME NOTES: A pair of teams tied at 2-2 in the OVC standings will meet on Saturday in Jacksonville in a must-win for both teams. Jacksonville State and Murray State will be meeting for the 17th time with the Gamecocks holding a 14-2 all-time advantage. The Racers won the initial meeting between the teams in 2003 before JSU won 14 of the next 15 games (with the only other MSU win coming in overtime in 2013). In last year's meeting Jax State handed Murray State its first Conference loss of the season, tallying 577 yards of total offense in the 42-15 victory. Zerrick Cooper passed for three touchdowns (all to Josh Pearson) and ran for another for the Gamecocks while Drew Anderson passed for 229 yards and ran for a touchdown for the Racers. Anthony Koclanakis had a 37-yard interception return for a score for Murray State in the game.

SCOUTING MURRAY STATE: After falling behind 34-10 late in the third quarter, Murray State scored the final 17 points of the game and drove to the Eastern Kentucky three-yard line before Preston Rice's pass was picked off in the end zone, ending the comeback. It marked one of three interceptions on the day for Rice who completed 39-of-58 passes for 372 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore LaMartez Brooks had a career day in catching 12 passes for 154 yards. That included a 56-yard catch on third down and a 19-yard catch on fourth down on the final drive of the game. Brooks now leads the team with 31 catches (and five receiving touchdowns) on the season. MSU was limited to just 22 net rushing yards on the afternoon. Defensively, Anthony Koclanakis had a game-high 10 tackles, while Scotty Humpich had eight tackles, 3.5 tackles-for-loss for a total of 11 yards and three quarterback hurries. Koclanakis continues to lead the OVC and now ranks 15th nationally in tackles/game (9.8). Murray State is third nationally in fumbles recovered (11) and sixth in turnovers gained (17).

SCOUTING JACKSONVILLE STATE: Jacksonville State saw its 32-game regular season home winning streak come to an end with a 24-21 loss to Southeast Missouri last Saturday. It marked only the third OVC loss for the Gamecocks under sixth-year head coach John Grass. Playing in a steady rain the game was a battle of defenses, with the scored tied at seven at halftime and SEMO leading 10-7 late in the fourth quarter. But the Redhawks scored on an 80-yard pass play with 4:21 to play and despite two touchdowns in the final 2:17 of the game the Gamecocks came up three points short. Zerrick Cooper finished the game by passing for 347 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for a score. It marked his fifth 300-yard passing game of the season. In just one and a half years at JSU, Cooper already ranks ninth in OVC history in career touchdown passes (53). Cooper enters this week third nationally in total passing yards (2,463), sixth in passing touchdowns (21), seventh in total offense (334.6 yards/game), ninth in passing yards/game (307.9) and points responsible for/game (19.5) and 12th in completions/game (23.75).  Jamari Hester caught five passes for 87 yards and a touchdown; he has 143 career catches, the third-most in JSU history. Josh Pearson caught four passes for 109 yards in the loss; his 11 touchdown catches on the season ranks first nationally (FBS or FCS). JSU remained ranked in both Top 25 polls (No. 21 Coaches, No. 24 STATS), the 83rd-straight week the team has been ranked.

The Massey Ratings predicts a 35-27 Jacksonville State victory.

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