The Jacksonville State junior running back isn’t the most comfortable talking about his accomplishments on the field. He would rather let his running do the talking, and Saturday it shouted loudly.
On this day, James set a JSU single-game record and tied an OVC mark with five rushing touchdowns in the Gamecocks’ 42-10 rout of winless Austin Peay.
As the undisputed star of the game, he was summoned for at least two postgame interviews. Reporters had an easier time catching him than the Governors’ defense.
“I don’t like interviews, but if that’s what they want, I’ve got to give it to them,” he said.
James became the fourth player in the FCS to rush for five touchdowns this year, joining Montana State’s Cody Kirk (vs. North Dakota), The Citadel’s Ben Dupree (vs. Old Dominion) and Towson’s Terrance West (vs. Delaware State).
The other OVC players to run for five TDs are Tennessee Tech’s Derek White (2007), Austin Peay’s Daniel Williams (1996) and Youngstown State’s Paris Wicks (1981).
James may be a player of few words, but when he does speak, people listen.
“He’s a hard-working kid who doesn’t really say much, but he really is a strong leader for our team,” quarterback Kyle West said. “When he does say something, everyone stops talking and listens to me. Usually, it’s something funny. He’s really dynamite, I can tell you that much.”
Johnson's big day
All Jamaal Johnson wanted to do was hold up his end.
The junior safety from Piedmont was pressed into his first college start Saturday while Brandon Bender was serving his suspension for a targeting penalty in last week’s game.
By all accounts, he acquitted himself well in a 42-10 win over Austin Peay. He led the Gamecocks in tackles with eight.
“There was no nervousness coming up to play Austin Peay,” he said. “I watched a lot of film on them. We knew they were going to run the ball. They know I’m a good run-stopper, so I got in and did what I had to do.”
It wasn’t like the Gamecocks were throwing Johnson to the wolves. He had played in 30 games previously in his career, although he didn’t start until Saturday.
Head coach Bill Clark called his play “solid.”
The most difficult part about the day was doing double duty. He’s also a regular on the special teams.
“I had to keep my stamina to keep playing,” he said. “I got to play a lot of snaps tonight. I thought I played the run pretty well. I missed a couple tackles, but I did keep everything in the box.”
There’s no disputing the impact Josh Barge has made on the JSU offense in his first year on the field.
With his career high nine catches for 115 yards Saturday, the redshirt broke Jax State’s single-season freshman records for catches (40) and receiving yards (569).
He broke the marks set by Bubba Long (34 catches, 540 yards) in 1966. He and Long are the only freshmen in JSU history with more than 500 receiving yards in a season.
“That’s amazing,” Barge said. “I didn’t know anything about it. I’m just blessed to be here right now. It’s a blessing the coaches have faith in me, putting me in the position I need to be, and the quarterback putting the ball on the money all the time.
“Just making plays is all I’m here for.”
Barge has caught at least four passes in each of the last four games and in five of the last six. Saturday was his third 100-yard receiving game.
“I feel I’m making a pretty big impact, but I feel there’s so much more I can do and I’m going to keep working every day to get that,” he said. “I just have a whole lot more in store. I know that. It’s just a matter of time.”
When the calendar turns to November, thoughts within the FCS universe turn to the playoffs.
The playoff field has been expanded to 24 teams this year and Jacksonville State wants to be one of them.
To provide every chance to be successful if they do get in, JSU officials said Saturday they will once again make a “very aggressive” bid to serve as host in the rounds leading to the championship Jan. 4 in Frisco, Texas.
“I think it’ll be tough to get a second round,” said athletics department spokesman Greg Seitz, who traditionally has been responsible for submitting JSU’s bid.
The top eight seeds in the field earn byes into the second round and will have home games as long as they remain alive in the tournament unless a conflict arises.
A potential snag to the Gamecocks’ plan is the school is on break the entire first week of the playoffs.
“Certainly we want to host, but it will create some logistics (issues),” Seitz said.
The Gamecocks have been to the Division I playoffs three times, but has hosted only once — a 2010 second-round loss to Wofford.
They can take a big step toward enhancing their consideration this year if they beat Eastern Kentucky next week. The Colonels routed second-place Tennessee State on Saturday.
Bids are due into the NCAA by Nov. 18. The playoff field will be announced Nov. 24.
They can play, too
From the Fun-&-Games Dept., earlier this week, the JSU graduate assistants rallied to beat the team managers 7-6 in a series that’s sure to become a classic.
Larry Smith, harkening back to his Vanderbilt days, rallied the GAs from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game and then, clearly playing the Prattville connection, hit defensive assistant Nick Gentry for the game-winning score.
Colton Albright scored three times for the managers.
“That was a big deal to those guys,” Clark said. “Those GAs said they didn’t know those guys played together all the time. They were telling us they even run our trick plays.
“I said good, they pay attention. Watch those managers. They throw the ball around every day. We’ve got some good athletes.”
Jacksonville State will face Eastern Kentucky (6-3) at home Saturday at 3 p.m.
Eastern Kentucky is second in the Ohio Valley Conference at 4-1 and has won four straight after losing 42-7 to league leader Eastern Illinois.
Eastern Kentucky pounded Tennessee State on Saturday 44-0.
The Colonels’ other two losses have come to Coastal Carolina and Louisville.