Motivated Gamecocks, Bearkats wrapping up spring
(STATS) – It may be fitting Jacksonville State and Sam Houston State are completing spring practices on the same night Thursday.
In recent years, the two national powers have been the biggest lightning rods of the FCS playoffs, both facing criticism for spectacular exits that have hung over outstanding seasons.
In three of the last four postseasons, Jacksonville State has earned the No. 3 seed in the 24-team playoffs yet lost at home in its first game, including 37-26 to Sam Houston in 2014.
Sam Houston has reached at least the national semifinals in five of past seven seasons, and while most programs would love to have that on their resume, the Bearkats have bowed out with at least a 32-point loss each of the last four years, including 62-10 to Jacksonville State in 2015.
Spring practices have offered renewed optimism for the Top 10 programs. Southland Conference power Sam Houston is 46-12 under fifth-year coach K.C. Keeler while Jacksonville State is 43-8 and hasn’t lost an Ohio Valley Conference game under fifth-year coach John Grass.
Out of respect to the Jacksonville State campus that is still recovering from an EF-3 tornado strike on March 19, the Gamecocks will not hold their annual spring game tonight, just an open practice at Burgess-Snow Field.
“We wanted to end up and still have our spring scrimmage, just not a full-blown game,” Grass said. “We won’t have the Southerners (marching band) here or the cheerleaders, and we will miss that part of it. It is open to the public, but we don’t feel that the timing was right to broadcast a spring game, even though we are back in school and everything is OK.”
The most interesting storyline in Jacksonville State’s spring is first-team All-OVC quarterback Bryant Horn’s competition with Clemson transfer Zerrick Cooper.
Sam Houston also has a quarterback competition following the loss of Jeremiah Briscoe, the two-time STATS FCS Walter Payton Award winner. Transfer Mike Dare is expected to win the starting job.
The Bearkats will play a spring game with a modified scoring system at Bowers Stadium.