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Jacksonville State vs. Middle Tennessee: Gamecocks stun Blue Raiders with late rally

The Jacksonville State Gamecocks pulled off a thrilling comeback victory over the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders on Wednesday night, scoring 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to win 31-28. The Gamecocks improved to 5-1 in their first season at the FBS level, while the Blue Raiders fell to 1-5 and remained winless against FBS opponents.

Gamecocks overcome turnovers and penalties

The Gamecocks had a rough start to the game, as they committed three turnovers and seven penalties in the first half. They trailed 14-0 after the first quarter, as the Blue Raiders capitalized on a fumble and an interception by quarterback Zerrick Cooper. Middle Tennessee quarterback Bailey Hockman threw two touchdown passes to Jarrin Pierce and CJ Windham, giving the home team an early lead.

Jacksonville State managed to cut the deficit to 14-10 by halftime, thanks to a 34-yard field goal by Alen Karajic and a 1-yard touchdown run by Cooper. The Gamecocks defense also stepped up, forcing two turnovers and holding the Blue Raiders to 86 yards of total offense in the second quarter.

Jacksonville State vs. Middle Tennessee: Gamecocks stun Blue Raiders with late rally

Middle Tennessee extends lead with big plays

The Blue Raiders came out firing in the third quarter, as they scored two touchdowns on explosive plays. Hockman connected with Windham again for a 75-yard score on the first play of the second half, extending their lead to 21-10. After a Jacksonville State punt, Hockman found Jimmy Marshall for a 64-yard touchdown, making it 28-10 with 9:35 left in the third quarter.

Hockman finished the game with 298 passing yards and four touchdowns, while Windham had four catches for 117 yards and two scores. Marshall added three receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown.

Jacksonville State rallies in the fourth quarter

The Gamecocks did not give up, as they mounted a furious comeback in the final quarter. Cooper led a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Ahmad Edwards, cutting the margin to 28-17 with 11:51 remaining. The Gamecocks defense then forced a three-and-out, giving their offense another chance.

Cooper delivered again, as he engineered a 12-play, 80-yard drive that culminated with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Michael Pettway, making it 28-24 with 5:18 left in the game. The Gamecocks defense came up big once more, as they stopped the Blue Raiders on fourth-and-1 at their own 34-yard line, giving their offense a short field and plenty of time.

Cooper wasted no time, as he threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Edwards on the first play of the ensuing drive, giving the Gamecocks their first lead of the game at 31-28 with 3:49 remaining. The Gamecocks defense sealed the win with an interception by Nicario Harper on Middle Tennessee’s final drive.

Cooper completed 25 of his 39 passes for 305 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran for 38 yards and a score. Edwards had six catches for 86 yards and two touchdowns, while Pettway had five receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown.

What’s next for both teams?

The Gamecocks will return home to face Eastern Kentucky on Saturday, Oct. 7 at Burgess-Snow Field. The Gamecocks are tied for first place in the Atlantic Sun Conference with Liberty, who they will face on Oct. 21.

The Blue Raiders will hit the road to take on UConn on Saturday, Oct. 7 at Pratt & Whitney Stadium. The Blue Raiders are looking for their first conference win of the season, as they are currently last in Conference USA East.

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