The teams in Jacksonville State’s 24-21 double overtime win over North Alabama on Saturday were stopped a lot. They were flagged a combined 30 times for 240 yards in walk-offs.
It only looked like more because the yellow trim some of the UNA players had on their cleats matched the color of the penalty flags.
A week after they were flagged only twice – and none on offense in a record-setting day -- the Gamecocks (3-0) were hit an FCS school-record 17 times for 159 yards. They fell this week to 92nd in the FCS in penalty yards a game (from 15th) and 84th in penalties a game (from 12th).
The 17 flags topped the old record of 15 set in a 2001 loss to Stephen F. Austin. The 159 yards were the most in a game by the Gamecocks since their Division I school-record 175 in a 2004 win over Southeast Missouri. The single-game school record is 176 yards in a 1957 loss to Chattanooga.
Against the Lions there were six holds – two on the same scoring drive – three false starts or offsides, three personal fouls or unsportsmanlike conduct, two delays and one substitution, pass interference and facemask each. Eight of the penalties came inside UNA’s 30.
“I was very frustrated with the number of penalties,” Gamecocks coach Bill Clark said diplomatically. “The thing we talked about to our guys at halftime is they’re obviously calling it, so be sure you’re trying to keep your hands inside.
“The biggest thing we want to take out of it is we want to be smart and disciplined, while being intense and passionate, and make sure we don’t give our opponent anything. Things people think are undisciplined we didn’t do.”
Protocol dictates any specific concerns about officiating be discussed at the administrative level. OVC coordinator of football officials Jim Jackson is aware of what transpired in JSU Stadium and said he is “concerned.”
“We averaged about 15 fouls a game in our league in 2012,” Jackson said. “The fans, players, coaches, officials and their supervisor left that game with a bad taste in our mouths. Thirty flags takes the fun out of the game for everybody, and I’m concerned. We’ll evaluate and try to improve.”
The Ohio Valley Conference record for penalty yards in a game is 201 by Eastern Kentucky in 1988. Since 2004, the most penalties by an OVC team is 20 by Tennessee State in last year’s opener against Florida A&M, and the most yardage is 187 by Austin Peay in its 2010 opener against Cumberland. Interestingly, back judge Meddie Kalegi and side judge Troy McMaken worked both JSU’s flagfest and that Austin Peay game.
The penalties put a serious crimp in the Gamecocks’ offensive efficiency, but once again their defense rose up to keep the Lions from creating any real havoc. The defense gave up two touchdowns, but stopped a potential game-tying two-point conversion, logged three sacks and had three takeaways. Linebacker Rashad Smith had a team-high 13 tackles.
The JSU offense scored on a flea-flicker from Troymaine Pope to Markis Merrill and got a school-record five field goals from Griffin Thomas, the OVC co-special teams player of the week.
Since joining the OVC, the Gamecocks are 14-4 in games they have been penalized 10 or more times, 14-1 in games with 100 or more penalty yards.
“I do think they responded and pulled together,” Clark said. “We faced some adversity and found a way to come out on the good side.”
Clark said the Gamecocks received positive reports on the injuries to Merrill and running back DaMarcus James Sunday, but will know more about their status for the week Monday.
Merrill was shaken up by a violent but clean hit in the first quarter and didn’t return. James hurt his ankle on the Gamecocks’ opening possession.
Quarterback Max Shortell also was held out after testing a muscle issue in warm-ups. Clark believes the junior will be ready to practice Monday.
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.
Games JSU has had 10 or more penalties since joining OVC (2003)
17, N. Alabama, 2013 (W)
14, Nicholls St., 2009 (W)
14, SEMO, 2004 (W)
13, Georgia St., 2010 (W)
13, Samford, 2004 (W)
12, Tenn. Tech, 2010 (L)
12, SEMO, 2008 (W)
12, UT Martin, 2003 (W)
11, E. Illinois, 2011 (W)
11, Austin Peay, 2009 (W)
11, Florida St., 2009 (L)
11, UT Martin, 2004 (W)
11, Emporia St., 2004 (W)
11, Tenn. Tech, 2003 (W)
10, UTC, 2011 (L)
10, Alabama St., 2007 (L)
10, UTC, 2006 (W)
10, SEMO, 2003 (W)
Games JSU has had 100 or more penalty yards since joining OVC (2003)
175, SEMO, 2004 (W)
159, N. Alabama, 2013 (W)
130, Tenn. Tech, 2010 (L)
129, Emporia St., 2004 (W)
126, Austin Peay, 2009 (W)
123, Samford, 2004 (W)
121, Georgia St., 2010 (W)
120, Samford, 2005 (W)
117, Nicholls St., 2009 (W)
115, SEMO, 2008 (W)
110, Tenn. State, 2004 (W)
109, Samford, 2007 (W)
108, Tenn. Tech, 2003 (W)
105, E. Illinois, 2011 (W)
101, UT Martin, 2003 (W)