Preview: Murray State vs. Jacksonville State

MurraySports

 

#12 Jacksonville State Gamecocks (5-2, 4-1 OVC)
at Murray State Racers (4-3, 4-0 OVC)
Saturday, October 27 3:00 p.m. CT
Stewart Stadium (16,800) Murray, Ky.
TV:...................................................................... ESPN3
Live Stats: http://stats.statbroadcast.com/broadcast/?id=229572
Series Record:..................... Jacksonville State leads 13-2
Last Meeting:......... Jacksonville State won 59-23 (11/4/17)
John Grass at Jacksonville State:................. 48-10 (5 yrs.)
John Grass Overall:................................................. same
Mitch Stewart at Murray State:..................... 14-26 (4 yrs.)
Mitch Stewart Overall:.............................................. same
Jacksonville State Last Week: L, 37-14 at Southeast Missouri
Murray State Last Week:....... W, 34-6 at Eastern Kentucky

GAME NOTES: It will be a battle at the top of the OVC standings on Saturday in Murray when nationally-ranked Jacksonville State comes to town. But unlike the previous four years (that saw JSU go undefeated in league play), it will be Murray State who is in sole possession of first place with a 4-0 record. The all-time series saw Murray State win the initial meeting in 2003, before JSU won 13 of the next 14 contests. The lone win for Murray State during the stretch was a 35-34 overtime contest in 2013. Since then JSU has won four in a row in the series, including a 59-23 contest last year in Jacksonville. In that win, JSU totaled 484 yards of total offense while limiting the Racers to just 153 yards. Roc Thomas rushed for 138 yards and two scores from the Gamecocks while Bryant Horn threw a trio of touchdown passes and also rushed for another score. Shuler Bentley passed for 117 yards and two touchdowns for Murray State.

SCOUTING JACKSONVILLE STATE: Jacksonville State finds itself in unfamiliar territory after seeing its 36-game OVC winning streak end with a 37-14 loss at Southeast Missouri. It was the team's first OVC loss since 2013, the season before John Grass took over as head coach. The Gamecocks committed five turnovers (three interceptions, two fumbles lost), had a kick blocked and returned for a score and were held to 99 yards rushing (although they entered the contest ranked 11th nationally with 257.5 rushing yards/game). Despite three interceptions, Zerrick Cooper finished the game with 323 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns. One of those went to Josh Pearson, his 12th touchdown of the season, which established a new JSU single-season record and is one away from moving into the OVC career Top 10. Pearson has caught a touchdown pass in all seven games this season. As a team, JSU enters the week ranked third nationally in total offense (533.9 yards/game), total defense (251.6 yards/game) and rushing defense (76.1 yards/game) and fourth in scoring offense (43.3 points/game).

SCOUTING MURRAY STATE: Murray State went to Eastern Kentucky and topped its rival 34-6 to improve to 4-0 in OVC play for the first time since the 1996 season (when the Racers went 8-0 and won its second-straight OVC Championship). It marked the second-straight win in Richmond over the Colonels, the first Murray State head coach to accomplish that since Don Shelton in 1960 and 1962. MSU struggled on offense early in the contest, running just 12 plays through one and a half quarters and only picking up one first down. But a Rodney Castille touchdown and Gabriel Vicente 42-yard field goal in the final 4:34 of the second quarter gave the Racers a 10-3 halftime lead. Senior quarterback Drew Anderson tossed one of his two touchdown passes to open the third quarter and ignite the Racers offense which would score 24 second half points. Anderson finished the game with 205 passing yards and earned his second-straight OVC Newcomer of the Week award. He completed passes to 11 different receivers; overall 18 different MSU players have caught a pass this season. Kenney Wooten had three sacks in the game and now leads the OVC and ranks fourth nationally in that category (1.14/game). Quincy Williams added 10 tackles and his second interception of the year, returning it 85 yards to the 1-yard line (he scored on an 82-yarder earlier this season).

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