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Football

Explosive Yellow Jackets Spoil JSU's Season Opener, 37-17

BOX SCOREPOSTGAME NOTES | PHOTO GALLERY | FINAL STATS (pdf)

ATLANTA – An explosive Georgia Tech stormed out of the gates on Saturday and never looked back before handing the Jacksonville State a 37-17 loss in both teams' season opener at Grant Field.

The Yellow Jackets, ranked No. 15 in the latest poll, scored on their first play from scrimmage and then racked up 497 yards of total offense, the most allowed by the Gamecocks (0-1) since the season opener vs. Furman in 2005. Jax State did manage 291 yards of its own, the highest total in a season opener since that 2005 game with the Paladins.

A crowd of 46,131, the second-largest to ever see the Gamecocks play, saw JSU head coach Jack Crowe's 100th game at the helm of the Gamecocks and the fifth-straight opening game defeat for his team.

Sophomore quarterback Marques Ivory guided the Gamecock offense in his first collegiate start under center and proceeded to post career highs in passing yards, completions, attempts, touchdowns and rushes. The Warner Robins, Ga., native finished the afternoon with 193 yards and two scores on 23-of-38 passing.

Ivory found nine different receivers on the day, a group led by senior James Wilkerson. The senior from Crestview, Fla., caught a game-high six passes for 70 yards, while senior Greg Smith hauled in four catches for 27 yards in his Gamecock debut. Smith, an Atlanta native, transferred to JSU from Ga. Tech after last season.

The Yellow Jackets' Josh Nesbitt proved to be the star of the day, however, as the junior signal caller from Greensboro, Ga., threw for 141 yards and a touchdown while running for 94 yards and another score on 14 carries. Jonathan Dwyer ran for 95 yards on seven carries, 74 of which came on his touchdown run on the game's first play from scrimmage. Demaryius Thomas was Nesbitt's favorite target on the day, hauling in four passes for 101 yards.

Fourteen JSU players made their Gamecock debut on Saturday, with Ivory leading a group of four players that earned their first start in a JSU uniform. Sophomore Patrick Tatum also made an impact in his JSU debut, kicking a 26-yard field goal and two extra points and punting seven times for an average of 35.6 yards.

Junior Andrew Ridgeway and senior Alexander Henderson led the Gamecocks defense with nine and eight tackles, respectively, while junior Kevin Dix added seven stops and a forced fumble in his JSU debut.

Tech (1-0) wasted no time getting on the scoreboard, tossing the first play from scrimmage to Jonathan Dwyer, who scampered 74 yards to give the Yellow Jackets a 7-0 lead just 18 seconds into the game. It was the quickest score by a JSU foe since Nov. 18, 2000, when Troy State scored just 17 seconds in.

Jax State's Jamal Young fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Tech's Jemea Thomas fell on it at the Gamecocks' 23 yard line. The turnover set up a 20-yard field goal by Scott Blair five plays later that put the Jackets up 10-0 with 12:05 to play in the first. They added another score almost 10 minutes later, when Dwyer's second score of the day, a five-yard run, capped a nine-play, 73-yard drive that took just 3:49 off of the clock and gave Tech a 17-0 advanatage.

The Gamecocks used a little trickery to get on the board in the second quarter. Freshman Brooks Robinson entered the game at quarterback and threw a lateral to Ivory, who was lined at wideout. Ivory then turned and fired to the left sideline, where he found Robinson for a 20-yard touchdown pass with 8:27 to play in the half. The play capped a 47-yard drive that took seven plays and was started by an A.J. Davis fumble recovery.

The Yellow Jackets got the points back less than two minutes later on a Josh Nesbitt keeper from 10 yards out that finished another 73-yard drive that took four plays. The drive was started by a 56-yard pass from Nesbitt to Demaryius Thomas. Jerrard Tarrant capped an impressive half by the Yellow Jackets with a 68-yard touchdown return of a 40-yard Patrick Tatum punt. It was Tech's first punt return for a score since 2003 and the first time a JSU opponent ran one back for a score since 2006.

After a scoreless third quarter, the Gamecocks cut the deficit to 31-10 with 13:33 to play on a 26-yard field goal by Tatum, the first of his career.

Nesbitt stretched the GT lead to 37-10 at the 10:45 mark of the fourth quarter, when he found Anthony Allen from 26 yards out to finish off a seven-play drive that spanned 62 yards and ate just 2:47 off of the clock.

JSU scored once more before the end of the game on a seven-yard pass from Ivory to Alan Bonner with just 45 second remaining. The pass capped an 11-play, 75-yard drive that took only 2:14. It also marked the first touchdown catch of Bonner's young career.

The Gamecocks will continue face another ACC foe next week, when they travel to Tallahassee, Fla., to take on Florida State. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. CT, and the game will be carried live on the JSU Radio Network.

POSTGAME NOTES

- Captains for the Gamecocks: Senior DL Brandt Thomas, senior WR Greg Smith, senior LB 'Alexander Henderson and sophomore WR James Shaw.
- Jacksonville State won the coin toss and deferred to the second half.
- The Gamecocks had four players make their first career JSU start in the game, three on offense (Tylor Chambers, Greg Smith, Marques Ivory) and one on defense (Kevin Dix).
- Saturday marked Jack Crowe's 100th game as the Gamecocks' head coach. The 10th-year head coach is third on the school's all-time list behind Don Salls (163) and Bill Burgess (137) and now has a 57-43 record at the helm of JSU.
- JSU had 14 players make their Gamecock debut on Saturday.
- Sophomore Marques Ivory set career highs in passing yards (193), touchdown passes (2), pass completions (23), pass attempts (38), rushes (6) and interceptions thrown (1).
- Nine Gamecocks caught at least one pass on Saturday, with five of those recording their first career catch in a JSU uniform during the game.
- Jacksonville State falls to 45-48-1 in season openers and has lost its last five openers.
- The Gamecocks fall to 1-2 against current members of the Atlantic Coast Conference. They defeated Florida State, 7-0 in 1947 and have now lost twice to the Yellow Jackets.
- The Yellow Jackets' touchdown with 14:42 to play in the first quarter marked the earliest score by a JSU foe since Nov. 18, 2000, when Troy State scored with 14:43 on the first quarter clock.
- Tech's 17 first-quarter points were the most allowed in an opening quarter by the Gamecocks since Western Kentucky scored 21 on Nov. 29, 2003.
- Sophomore A.J. Davis' fumble recovery in the second quarter was the second of his career. His only other recovery also came against Ga. Tech, in 2008.
- Junior Andrew Ridgeway's forced fumble in the second quarter was the first of his career.
- Kevin Dix' second-quarter forced fumble was the first of his career, while Jason Horton's recovery was also a career first.
- Jerrard Tarrant's 68-yard punt return for a score in the second quarter was the first given up by the Gamecocks since Oct. 14, 2006 (Derek Pegues, Miss. State - 81 yds).
- The Yellow Jackets' 31 first-half points were the most allowed by a JSU team since Sept. 14, 2002, when Mississippi State took a 32-14 lead into the half.
- Marques Ivory's 20-yard touchdown pass to Brooks Robinson in the second quarter was the third scoring pass of his career.
- Freshman Brooks Robinson's touchdown catch on the Gamecocks' second-quarter trick play marked the first touchdown catch by a JSU quarterback in the school's Division I history.
- Sophomore Calvin Middleton's 11 carries for 59 yards both marked career highs.
- Jawaan Booker's fumble recovery in the third quarter was the first of his career.
- Sophomore Patrick Tatum's 26-yard field goal in the fourth quarter was the first of his career.
- The loss was the first in Marques Ivory's career as a starting quarterback. It was his first start at JSU, but he was 30-0 as a starter at Northside High School in Warner Robins, Ga.
- Freshman Alan Bonner's seven-yard touchdown catch from Ivory in the fourth quarter was the first of his career.
- The 497 of total offense by the Yellow Jackets were the most against the Gamecocks since Sept. 1, 2005, when Furman totaled 502 yards.
- JSU's 291 yards of total offense were the most by the Gamecocks in a season opener since 2005, when they had 301 yards against Furman (Sept. 1).

POST-GAME QUOTES  - JACKSONVILLE STATE HEAD COACH JACK CROWE
“We gave up a lot of stuff, but I think we played hard. We had 22 guys on the field who hadn't played before here, and I think there was a lot of uncertainty. Some things happened that we didn't expect to happen. They have four premier players who are guys, that if they have room, are going to beat you by themselves.

“I was proud of Marques (Ivory). I was disappointed that we didn't have any more of a running game than we had. But I think our receivers played well, and I think we need to get better in the kicking game. The biggest disappointment to me was the punt return. We maintained good field position early in the game, but as the game went on, field position got away from us. I have confidence in Patrick, and I think we're going to do a lot better than what we did.

“They are a top 20 team. I don't know of they'll have that much yardage, but they're going to have a lot of yardage on a lot of folks. They're going to make a lot of plays on a lot of folks. We've got to to give some credit where credit is due, and there are some great athletes over there. Paul did a great job, as he always did.

“We schemed ourselves into a tough situation. Like the first play of the game. That was just a gimme. Our players didn't have anything to do with that. It was a great call by Paul. He's a really good football coach, I think they'll do well.”

What do you mean by that (the first play of the game)?

“We brought a blitz, and the only we you can beat that is to pitch the ball into the boundary. My statement was, I don't think there's much of a chance of that. I called that one. We wasted time trying to get penetration. We didn't get any penetration. We were better off if we just sat back with it. We felt like we could get isolated one-on-one a little too much if we didn't come after them a little bit. It's a little bit 'damned if you do, damned if you don't.'”

What did you see in the way Marques Ivory played?

“He's supposed to be a coach on the field. His heart rate didn't go up as much as mine did. He made his mistakes, but he came off the field and told you everything that was going on. He's what he's supposed to be. He's got to get a lot better. He missed some open receivers. I'd like to see him about 220 (weight). I think he can be an outstanding runner if he chose to be. He's a work in progress.”

BY THE NUMBERS
2 - Career fumble recoveries by sophomore A.J. Davis, both coming vs. Ga. Tech.
4 - Gamecocks that made their first career start on Saturday, 3 on offense and 1 on defense
4 - Consecutive seasons the Gamecocks have opened their schedule on the road.
14 - Gamecocks that made their JSU debut on Saturday
20 - Yards on Brooks Robinson's touchdown catch from Marques Ivory, the first TD catch by a JSU QB in the school's D-I history.
31 - First-half points by Ga. Tech, the most against JSU since Sept. 14, 2002 (Miss. St., 32)
90 - Consecutive games in which the Gamecocks have scored, a streak that dates back to Nov.18, 2000, when they were last shut out.
100 - Games Jack Crowe has coached at JSU, the third-most in school history.
291 - Yards of total offense by JSU, the most in a season opener since 2005.
497 - Yards of total offense by Ga. Tech, the most against the Gamecocks defense since Sept. 1, 2005 (Furman, 502 yds.)
46,131 - Attendance for this afternoon's game, the second-largest crowd to ever watch the Gamecocks play.
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