Such was the scene at JSU Stadium on Saturday, after the Gamecocks tied Penn’s FCS record with a third straight overtime game, and the agony of watching Murray State’s players giddily race across Bill Burgess Field should be all JSU needs to want off the overtime train and on the runaway train.
That changeover that should have happened long before the Gamecocks suffered their first loss of the Bill Clark era 35-34 in their Ohio Valley Conference opener.
“We’ve seen that all year,” quarterback Max Shortell said. “We’ve been so close -- so close to touchdowns, so close to putting teams away, and even today.
“It’s been our story all year. We’ve got to learn to put teams away.”
JSU can show 652 total yards and 35 first downs that say the Gamecocks should have left their house with an OVC victory Saturday.
They can show a 247-yard edge on Murray State, because JSU’s defense flipped the off switch on Chris Hatcher’s scoring machine for most of the second half.
But JSU can also show three Shortell interceptions, the flip side of an otherwise brilliant, 285-yard passing performance.
JSU can show Markis Merrill’s drop of a perfect Shortell pass to the goal line on a third-quarter drive that ended in one of Griffin Thomas’ two missed field goals.
The Gamecocks can show Josh Barge’s fumble into the end zone, thanks to Brandon Wicks’ touchdown-saving tackle and strip just before halftime.
Five scoreless JSU possessions reached the Murray 30-yard line or farther. Had any one of them produced points, Murray never would have gotten the chance to convert two fourth downs and a two-point pass in their overtime possession.
This should have been a no-drama day, but it wound up in a place all too familiar to the Gamecocks. Just like against North Alabama and Georgia State in the previous two weeks, JSU found itself having to win in overtime.
Just like at Alabama State, the Gamecocks found themselves needing a dramatic defensive stop to save a victory.
Live on the edge enough, and little things matter -- little things like Rashod Byers’ almost game-ending interception right before Murray’s first fourth-down conversion in overtime.
Live on the edge, and Clark winds up making tough calls -- like letting the regulation clock tick down to four seconds before calling his final timeout on third down from the Murray 13-yard line.
Why risk a sack or throw into coverage? Just make sure to get that tying field goal and hope for the best in yet another overtime exchange.
It worked for JSU two weeks in a row. It didn’t work Saturday, in a game that mattered more than any other the Gamecocks have played this season.
JSU wound up settling for a field goal when the Gamecocks should have been lining up in the “victory formation,” all because they missed so many opportunities to put the game away.
“We’ve got to,” Clark said. “I said that before we went on the field. I said, when we get the chance. … As sickening as it is, I saw tons of good things tonight. Just a little bit short.”
Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @jmedley_star.