Jacksonville State opened the 2018 football campaign with a loss that snapped the Gamecocks’ regular-season win streak of 41 straight against non-Football Bowl Subdivision opponents.
“Sometimes you learn a lot from a loss,” coach John Grass said of falling 20-17 to then-No. 14 North Carolina A&T in a nationally televised showdown of Football Championship Subdivision powers at Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl. “I think we kind of grew as a team and realized we can get beat.”
JSU committed four turnovers, was whistled for 14 penalties and was only 1-for-11 on third-down conversions.
“We learned and we got better in those areas,” the coach said. “I think it possibly did us some good as the year went on.”
The Gamecocks went on to a 9-4 record. The five-time defending Ohio Valley Conference champion kicks off its 2019 season at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 29, at Southeastern Louisiana.
Alabama NewsCenter: What is the outlook for this season?
John Grass: I’m excited about the chemistry of this team so far and how they have progressed. It’s a daily process and we’re excited about getting it started.
ANC: What is the strength of this year’s team?
Grass: I think skillwise on both sides. Defensively, we’ve got our secondary and linebackers back. We’ve got a good core there, some good depth. Offensively, we’ve got all our skill back from our quarterbacks, receivers, running backs. We’re really excited about that.
ANC: Who are your team’s standouts?
Grass: We’ve got a lot of leadership coming back and we’ve done a good job in the offseason of cultivating that leadership. We’ve got a lot of guys. I can’t really name any guys. We’ve got some veterans back. Every room’s got an older guy in it. (The front cover of the JSU Media Guide displays five first-team preseason all-conference selections – safety Marlon Bridges, wide receiver Josh Pearson, quarterback Zerrick Cooper, tight end Trae Barry and offensive lineman Darius Anderson.)
ANC: What games do your fans have circled on your schedule?
Grass: The question at Media Day was (about) UNA (North Alabama), an old Gulf South rival. Everybody will have that one circled. The opener’s always circled. Chattanooga’s become a big rivalry for us. Everybody will look forward to Eastern Washington coming in. They played in the national championship game last year.
ANC: What is your lingering question?
Grass: I think (it’s) depth up front on both sides. From D-line to O-line, we’re a little young there. We were real young last year everywhere. I think some of those guys are unproven. They’ve got to play in some games and grow up real quick.
Download or print a complete schedule of all 15 Alabama college football programs, including JSU, here.