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Jacksonville State’s Hail Mary Delivers Latest FCS-FBS Upset

Greg Seitz has been at Jacksonville State for nearly three decades, through a Division II National Championship, conference titles and the FCS playoffs.

But the longtime Gamecocks athletic director and staff member has never seen anything quite as tall as this Hail Mary to beat Florida State 20-17 last Saturday night.

“When you consider where this program has been… I think it’s probably in my mind the biggest win in Jacksonville State football history,” Seitz said.


However, he may not even have FCS’s biggest win so far this season. It wasn’t until mid-September and FCS teams have eight wins on FBS programs, including the Jacksonville State upset and Montana’s first 13-7 victory over the then number one. 20 Washington.

This is the most such wins in a season since FCS teams won nine in 2017. And they are just getting started, perhaps taking advantage of the spring seasons that have served as summer camps. de facto training.

FCS programs produced just two such victories last season, Jacksonville State’s victory over Florida International and Tarleton State’s victory over New Mexico State – barely any results. overwhelming.

John Grass of the Gamecocks said FCS coaches may know their teams better after recently completing another season.

“You feel like you just finished playing because you just finished playing, but (it’s) not something we want to do every year,” Grass said. “But I think you’ve seen FCS wins against FBS and some of them very good FCS teams have faced bad FBS teams.

“Every game has its own life. Sometimes I think FBS teams overlook FCS teams.”

Jacksonville State not only provided a huge upset for a three-time National Champion, but a fantastic finish.

For Seitz, that was more important than winning the Division II championship game in 1992 and Mississippi’s 2010 double overtime of the mighty Southeastern Conference.

It was Florida State, winner of their third national title not too long ago in 2013. The Seminoles had won their first 26 games against teams from FCS, or Division I-AA, although they had Jacksonville State also followed early in last year’s meet.

Zerrick Cooper threw the desperate deep pass to Damond Philyaw-Johnson, who brought it right inside the 20-yard line and made a quick cut en route to a 59-yard touchdown. This followed a 97-yard touchdown walk that ended with just under five minutes left.

It was the same play call Jacksonville State had tried in the previous play, and coaches urged Cooper to seek out Philyaw-Johnson.

The winner of the game was a historic moment not only for the Gamecocks, who are normally hidden away in the northeast Alabama town of Jacksonville, which has a population of less than 13,000.

It was also important for Cooper, a once highly regarded prospect who spent two seasons as a replacement for Florida State ACC rival Clemson. The starter and three-year-old suffered a season-ending injury in a win over FBS Florida International last fall and missed the spring season.

Cooper said he had watched this final “probably over 1,000 times”. Linebacker Stevonte Tullis believes he savored the moment until dawn on Sunday.

“I know I’m going to live with this for the rest of my life,” Cooper said, “and I’m going to be able to tell my kids about it.”

Philyaw-Johnson, who is from Pensacola, Fla., Had just one catch for 1 yard in the first two games before this Hail Mary.

Jacksonville State joined the Atlantic Sun Conference in July after winning their sixth Ohio Valley title in seven seasons. They are in a transition year that includes schools moving to the Western Athletic Conference.

Jacksonville State raised $ 400,000 for the Florida State game, but the victory garnered invaluable attention for the Gamecocks, usually overshadowed in the state by the SEC Alabama and Auburn teams.

Seitz said website traffic was 500% higher than normal on Saturday night and Sunday morning. The Gamecocks woke up to their climax on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” and the game topping the program’s Top 10 list. It has attracted over a million views on social media.

This is the type of free advertising that Jacksonville State could never have afforded with a total sports budget of around $ 18 million. And the memories, well, they will definitely last.


“This game will be remembered as well as this game,” said Grass. “We’ve made history and no one will ever take that away from us.”

The same can be said by a few other FCS wins against FBS Schools this season including:

– Montana scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and stopped Washington in their last two practices in Game 1 for both teams. It was the first time an FCS team have beaten a ranked FBS team since North Dakota State defeated Iowa No.13 23-21 in 2016.

–Holy Cross, which does not give out football scholarships, never lagged in the second half and beat Connecticut 38-28, her first victory against an FBS team since dominating the military in 2002. The next day UConn coach Randy Edsall said he would retire as the end of the season. The next day he was fired.

–East Tennessee State beat Vanderbilt 23-3, spoiling Clark Lea’s debut as head coach of his alma mater. The victory, achieved with three turnovers in the fourth quarter, was ETSU’s first on a Power Five schedule since defeating North Carolina State on November 7, 1987.

–South Dakota State, which lost in the FCS Championship game three and a half months earlier, opened a 35-10 lead and beat Colorado State 42-23. It was the Jackrabbits’ first victory against an FBS team since they beat Kansas in 2015.

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