JACKSONVILLE – Davidson was its own worst enemy on Saturday afternoon at Burgess-Snow Field at JSU Stadium. Jacksonville State was happy to take advantage of the Wildcats' miscues in a 35-17 Gamecock victory.

However, it was also a frustrating afternoon at times for a Jacksonville State team that had trouble getting off the field against the Davidson option attack and had sporadic moments on offense, even though quarterback Zion Webb accounted for five touchdowns.

“As I told the team, I felt we got outcoached in certain areas, I felt we got out-physicaled in certain areas,” said Jacksonville State head coach Rich Rodriguez, whose team’s offense only had the ball for 17 minutes and 50 seconds in the 60-minute game on Saturday. “But I don’t want to apologize for a win. You worry about option team, how many possessions are you going to have, will they eat the clock up. You start pressing things too much offensively and all that happened. But there was no panic. It’s just hard to stand on the sideline when they are controlling it that way.”

The Wildcats’ miscues certainly helped.

Davidson (1-0) lost a fumble on its opening snap. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, that was a sign of things to come. Jacksonville State (2-0) failed to take advantage of the miscue. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, that was not a sign of things to come.

The Gamecocks scored four times in the first half. Three of those came on drives of 30, 19 and 26 yards. Two of those short drives came after Davidson lost a fumble. The other short drive came following a 71-yard kickoff return by Michael Pettway.

“The way the game started off, they gift us the first possession (and) we didn’t do anything with it,” Rodriguez said. “They gift us another one, and we scored the touchdown. You think, ‘Oh, this is starting out perfect.’ But then, the rest of it, they controlled the clock.”

Webb had already started his way toward a big day in the first 30 minutes. At that point, Webb was 7-of-11 for 136 yards with touchdown passes of 31 yards to Sterling Galban and 21 yards to Pat Jackson. Webb also had four carries for 26 yards with scoring runs of three and seven yards.

Davidson, running its clock-eating option attack, held the ball for more than 23 minutes in the first half and ran 17 more plays (41-24) than the Gamecock. But the only points they managed came on a 25-yard pass from Jayden Waddle to Mark McCurdy and a 39-yard field goal by Caden Bonoffski with seconds left in the first half.

The game was not decided at that point, but Davidson had a difficult hill to climb.

The Wildcats used a Jacksonville State mistake to cut into the deficit. A Webb pass was intercepted by linebacker Cam’ron Willis, setting the Wildcats up at the JSU 35-yard line. Six plays later, backup quarterback Luke Durkin placed a perfectly thrown pass to Aaron Maione for a 23-yard scoring pass to trim the deficit to 28-17.

Jacksonville State sealed the game with 9:29 remaining on a 20-yard-run by Webb.

In two weeks, Webb has accounted for six rushing touchdowns and a pair of passing touchdowns. He was 9-of-20 passing on Saturday for 158 yards and carried the ball seven times for 55 yards.

“I don’t want to say it’s a surprise,” Webb said of his two-game totals. “Coach Rich Rod has pushed us all spring, all summer, to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations. It’s just a blessing to be at this position I’m in right now. The guys around me help me a lot. It’s really not totally on me but the team as a whole.”

Defensively, on Saturday, the Gamecocks allowed 233 yards on 67 carries but just 290 total yards on 77 plays. Davidson was 10-of-17 on third down and converted 2-of-4 fourth down plays.

“I see a lot of rushing yards on here,” said Jacksonville State linebacker Markail Benton, glancing at a stat sheet. “I know that’s all they did the whole game. On our side of that, I think we can get better at the running game. We’ll have to face triple option teams again, later on in the season.”

Benton and fellow linebacker Stevonte Tullis were both outstanding. Tullis had 14 tackles and two fumble recoveries. Benton had 10 tackles.

Overall, though, Rodriguez came away a bit frustrated.

“We know we have to be more physical. We have to be more urgent to get off blocks and to stay on blocks than what we did today,” Rodriguez said.

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

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