Published December 12, 2015
(STATS) - The Jacksonville State offense has been one of the most explosive in the FCS, but the Gamecocks are playing like they have something to prove in the postseason.
Quarterback Eli Jenkins and running back Troymaine Pope took over in the second half Friday night as the top-seeded Gamecocks eliminated eighth-seeded Charleston Southern 58-38 in the FCS quarterfinals before 22,797 at Burgess-Snow Field.
Jacksonville State became the first Ohio Valley Conference team to advance to the semifinals since 1991. The Gamecocks (12-1) will host Colgate or Sam Houston State, who play Saturday, next weekend.
Pope rushed for 250 yards and three touchdowns on only 16 carries. His scores went for 76, 44 and 54 - all in the second half.
Jenkins carried the ball 21 times for 195 yards and two touchdowns and completed 11 of 17 passes for 91 yards and a score. With his 286 yards of total offense, the junior became the school's all-time leader with 7,922 yards, surpassing Montressa Kirby (7,688, 1995-98).
The dynamite duo helped the Gamecocks finish with 597 yards - 506 rushing - one weekend after the OVC champions rolled up 640 in beating Chattanooga in the second round.
The first-ever meeting between these programs matched the only FCS teams whose losses were just to FBS opponents. While Charleston Southern's Blue Swarm defense entered ranked second in the FCS allowing 266.6 yards per game and had given up an average of 13.3 points against FCS opponents, Jacksonville State's offense was overwhelming. The Gamecocks entered ranked fourth nationally with an average of 514.4 yards and eighth with 37.8 points per game.
The Gamecocks held a 13-10 halftime lead, but Pope's 76-yard touchdown jaunt in the first minute of the second half jump-started the big half. Their advantage grew to 34-17 when Jenkins ran for an 83-yard TD with 1:33 left in the third quarter.
Charleston Southern quarterbacks Austin Brown and Kyle Copeland had been knocked from a second-round win over The Citadel last Saturday, but both passed concussion tests during the week and played. Copeland threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another.
But the Buccaneers' run-based offense is built for the kind of leads that they usually had this season, not for playing from behind. And with the way the Gamecocks' offense rolled, the Bucs (10-3) stayed behind.
Jacksonville State has won 11 straight since its only loss in overtime at Auburn. Gamecocks coach John Grass has a 22-3 record in two seasons - the best two-year start by a coach in FCS history.