JSU tires of growing frustration over losing streak to EKU
by Al Muskewitz
Nov 05, 2013 | 2141 views |  0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jacksonville State cornerback Rashod Byers reacts after a long interception return for a TD. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
Jacksonville State cornerback Rashod Byers reacts after a long interception return for a TD. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
JACKSONVILLE — If there’s one date the Jacksonville State football players circle on their calendars every year it’s the one that has Eastern Kentucky on it.

And every year that circle gets darker and bigger, a testament to the growing frustration and resolve the Gamecocks have about the series.

To say beating the Colonels is getting to be an obsession with the Gamecocks is an understatement.

“It bothers me – a lot,” senior linebacker Robert Gray said. “We’re 0-3 against them (in my career) and it ain’t been just-barely wins. They’ve beaten us pretty bad.

“They’re averaging probably 45 points against us. That’s pretty frustrating. A win against them is a must. We have to do it.”

When JSU joined the Ohio Valley Conference in 2003, the Colonels were the league’s undisputed football kings. But the Gamecocks came right in and took their crown, winning the first two meetings and consequently the league title both times.

It hasn’t been that way lately.

The Colonels have won five of the last six games and are the only conference team with a winning record in the series with JSU since the Gamecocks joined the league. It was as if the Gamecocks’ 28-0 shutout in 2006 flipped a switch.

Working backward, the last three years have gone 51-21, 52-48 and 49-37. No team has scored 50 points or more in back-to-back games against the Gamecocks -- or more than 40 in three straight meetings -- since Georgia Southern in 1998 (51), 1999 (51) and 2002 (41).

The 152 points in the run are the most JSU has given up in any three-game stretch of a series, topping the 151 Chattanooga put on it in 1925 (40-0), 1926 (72-3) and, upon resuming the series, 1953 (39-0).

Gamecocks junior quarterback Max Shortell is a newcomer to the series, but he understands what it means to his teammates to turn the tide.

“Whenever they talk about the team they can’t wait to play the most or dislike the most, it’s EKU,” he said. “They said (EKU has) had our number the last five or six years, and it’s important for them to get this victory. It’s important for all of us.”

If the Gamecocks (7-2, 3-2 OVC) don’t snap their two-game home losing streak Saturday, their senior class will go through its entire career without having beaten the Colonels (6-3, 4-1). That hasn’t happened to a JSU senior class since the early 2000s when Troy and McNeese State both swept through four straight classes.

“I don’t want them going out having never beaten EKU when we know we could have had them beat numerous times,” junior nose Caleb Lawrence said.

The word most commonly used to describe JSU’s side of the series the last three years is “embarrassing.”

In 2010, the Colonels robbed the Gamecocks of a chance to become the No. 1 team in the country, seizing control of a close game in the first five minutes of the second half.

The next year was the unforgettable and unforgivable comeback. The Gamecocks led by 24 with eight minutes left, the coaches left the press box comfortable the lead was safe and the Colonels rallied to win.

“You could replay that game 100 times and that never happen,” EKU coach Dean Hood said. “Holy Moses, we’re dead in the water. We had no chance in the man in the moon to win that football game. Then, all of a sudden, a couple things happen and everybody’s whooping and hollering.”

The Gamecocks weren’t celebrating, but they can still hear the echoes.

“Everyone remembers that one,” Lawrence said. “That was completely embarrassing. Guys I played with who are gone now, we still talk about that every time we see each other. We discuss things (about it), but I’m not going to discuss those.”

Last year, the Gamecocks were simply mauled. The Colonels had more than 325 of their 558 total yards on the ground, jumped out to a 34-8 halftime lead and carried on to what JSU coach Bill Clark called a “pretty lopsided” conference opener.

“I don’t believe in being outcoached -- we got outplayed by them,” Gray said. “They came out and just whupped us from start to finish … in every phase of the game. We had (four) turnovers and they pounded it down our throats the whole game.”

Hood has no explanation for his team’s wave of success over the Gamecocks.

“We’ve just been fortunate," he said. "For whatever reason those things happen. There’s no question you get every week in college football teams have more talent but the other just had their number or vice versa.

"I’ve got no real answer for it. I just know you’ve got to try to do the best you can and prepare your team fundamentally and see how it is at kickoff.”

Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.

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