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Jacksonville State finished undefeated in ASUN play after a convincing 40-16 win at Central Arkansas on Saturday. Afterwards, the Gamecocks celebrated like ASUN champions, even though the conference doesn’t recognize Jacksonville State as the champions.

This is Jacksonville State’s only season in the ASUN, which is playing football for the first time this season. The Gamecocks are transitioning into the FBS, as a member of Conference USA. They are not eligible for the FCS playoffs, so the ASUN recognized Eastern Kentucky, Austin Peay and Central Arkansas as tri-champions with Eastern Kentucky getting the automatic bid from the conference. All three of the teams finished with a 3-2 conference record.

However, there is no doubt that Jacksonville State, which won five ASUN games by an average of 19 points per game, is the best football team in the conference. Jacksonville State administrators said the school will celebrate the conference titles with championship rings and commemorative t-shirts. Jacksonville State beat the three recognized champions by a combined, 122-50 and an average of 24 points per win.

“I’m just really so proud,” said Jacksonville State head coach Rich Rodriguez. “I don’t know that I’ve ever won a championship in my first year. That’s a true credit to these players – the way they bought in, the way they’ve worked and all the changes they went through. I’m just so proud of them. They deserve this.”  

The Gamecocks (9-2) won on Saturday the way they’ve done all season – running the football on offense and limiting the run on defense. Jacksonville State had 280 rushing yards on 55 carries, an average of 5.1 yards per carry, and limited Central Arkansas to 78 yards on 26 carries. Redshirt senior Zion Webb had 132 yards rushing with a touchdown, Ron Wiggins had 77 rushing yards with two touchdowns and Anwar Lewis rushed for 64 yards.

Webb also threw for 163 yards and a touchdown to Lewis.

MARY HARDIN-BAYLOR 54, HUNTINGDON COLLEGE 0: The defending NCAA Division III champions opened up the playoffs by running away from the Hawks. Mary Hardin-Baylor outgained the Hawks, 651-255, with 362 yards coming through the air and 289 on the ground.

Huntington quarterback Landon Cotney was 16-of-34 for 144 yards with an interception. Running back Kahari McReynolds had a productive day, rushing for 99 yards on 14 carries and catching six passes for 70 yards. Huntington won the USA South for the fourth consecutive season and advanced to the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons.

ALABAMA A&M 24, TEXAS SOUTHERN 20: Finish the game and Texas Southern would have played in the SWAC championship game. Instead, the Bulldogs rallied for 21 fourth quarter points to end the season on a high note and keep Texas Southern out of the title game.

Alabama A&M (4-7 overall, 4-4 SWAC) trailed, 14-3, heading into the fourth quarter and the deficit grew to 17 points on a 39-yard Texas Southern touchdown pass from Andrew Body to Randy Masters with 13:29 left.

The Bulldogs dominated the rest of the way. Quarterback Xavier Lankford scored on a five-yard run and threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Young, trimming the deficit to 20-17 with 6:15 left.

Donovan Eaglin started the game-winning drive with three rushes for 29 yards. The Bulldogs eventually faced 4th-and-1 at the Texas Southern 38-yard line. The Bulldogs not only converted but Lankford turned it into a game-winning 38-yard touchdown run with a minute left. Alabama A&M got the ball back after three Texas Southern incompletions and a sack by Zareon Hayes.

MEMPHIS 59, UNA 0: The Lions (1-10) ended a difficult season with a lopsided loss to the Tigers. It was just the sixth time in program history that UNA played an FBS team.

UNA managed just 124 yards in total offense. Running back ShunDerrick Powell, who set a school record for rushing yards this season, had 41 yards on 20 carries. Quarterback Noah Walters threw for 24 yards and rushed for 56 yards.

TROY 34, LOUISIANA-MONROE 16: Running back Kimani Vidal stole the show on Senior Day, carrying the ball 29 times for 242 yards and two touchdowns in the wire-to-wire Sun Belt Conference win. His total was the second most in school history, trailing Eddie Brundige’s 244 yards set in 1986.

It marks the eighth consecutive Troy win, which is the longest streak in the program’s FBS history. The Trojans are also one win away from qualifying for the Sun Belt Championship game. The Trojans could also get in with a South Alabama loss in the season finale.

Troy not only ran the ball well but the Trojans stopped the run, allowing the Warhawks 83 yards on 33 carries. Troy, which led, 20-3, at halftime, finished with 291 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns.

The Trojans, who were playing without leading tackler Carlton Martial, had five sacks. T.J. Harris led the way with eight tackles.  

SOUTH ALABAMA 27, SOUTHERN MISS 20: Quarterback Carter Bradley triggered a fourth-quarter rally with two touchdown passes and the Jaguars held on for a critical Sun Belt Conference win. The Jaguars trailed, 17-13, heading into the fourth quarter. Bradley threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Devin Voisin with 11:31 remaining and gave South Alabama a 27-17 lead on a 33-yard pass to Caullin Lacy with 1:53 remaining.

Southern Miss hit a field goal to trim the deficit to seven points with 13 seconds left. South Alabama recovered the onside kick.

Bradley was 15-of-22 for 238 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Freshman running back Braylon McReynolds had 15 rushes, 100 yards, 3 receptions for 66 yards and a kickoff return 17 yards. South Alabama was playing without leading rusher La’Damian Webb.

Sophomore safety Jaden Voisin had 17 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and an interception.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email steve.irvine@1819news.com.

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