It’s a first-round matchup of the FCS playoffs on the gridiron down in the Yellowhammer State when the Pioneer League takes on the OVC with the winner advancing and the loser going home. The Davidson Wildcats are on the road as they make the trip to face the #8 Jacksonville State Gamecocks Saturday afternoon. Davidson had their regular season finale against Stetson canceled due to COVID-19 issues on April 17 at home. The Wildcats lost 29-24 at Presbyterian in their previous game on April 10. Jacksonville State knocked off Murray State 28-14 on the road in the OVC championship game on April 11 in their most recent contest. This marks the first time that the programs have met on the gridiron in their respective histories.
Davidson Wildcats Looking to Extend Rare Postseason TripDavidson had their final game canceled and lost to Presbyterian their last time out yet earned their first bid to the postseason since losing the Tangerine Bowl back in 1969. The Wildcats finished the regular season 4-2 overall and 4-1 in the Pioneer League to earn a spot in the FCS playoffs. Against Presbyterian, Davidson was in a back and forth game as they led 7-0 in the first quarter, trailed 14-10 at the half, took a 17-14 lead in the third quarter and then trailed 26-17 early in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats got within two with 6:53 to play but allowed the Blue Hose to cover 68 yards in 11 plays and taking 5:04 off the clock before kicking a field goal. Davidson drove to the Presbyterian 23-yard line on their ensuing drive only to throw an interception at the Blue Hose three-yard line, allowing Presbyterian to run out the clock. The Wildcats held a 25-20 edge in first downs, controlled the clock 35:06 to 24:54 but lost the turnover battle three to one. Both teams finished with 325 yards of total offense.
The Wildcats are far more effective moving the ball via the run game (293.8 yards per game, 4.8 yards per carry) than they are through the air (102.8 yards per game) this season. Davidson puts up an average of 28.2 points per contest while they give up an average of 24.2 points per game on the year. Tyler Phelps has completed 44 of 76 passes for 617 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions on the year. He is third on the team with 323 rushing yards and a score. Dylan Sparks is the leading ground gainer as he has carried the ball 107 times for 519 yards and four scores. Coy Williams (86 carries, 459 yards, six TD) is a solid secondary option in the run game. Jalen Staples is the team’s top receiving threat with 15 grabs for 195 yards and two scores this season. Satchel Moore (nine grabs, 97 yards, TD) and Eli Turner (six catches, 111 yards, TD) are next in line. Caden Bonoffski has hit 19 of 22 extra-point attempts and six of seven field-goal tries with a long of 48 this season. Jake Alexander (25 solo) and Jalen Jefferson (22 solo) are tied for the team lead with 40 tackles this season.
Jacksonville State Gamecocks Try to AdvanceJacksonville State earned their second straight win and won the OVC by beating Murray State on the road in their last game. The Gamecocks improved to 9-2 overall and 6-1 in the OVC with the victory, earning the #4 seed in the FCS playoffs as a result. Against Murray State, Jacksonville State jumped to a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter and led the rest of the way. The lead was 14-7 after one quarter, 21-7 at the half and 28-7 after three quarters en route to the victory. Jacksonville State held a 444-375 edge in total offense, forced the game’s lone turnover and each team had 23 first downs. The Gamecocks held a 31:48 to 28:12 edge in time of possession in the contest.
For the season, the Gamecocks have averaged 200.4 yards per game through the air on the season. Jacksonville State ran for 193.5 yards per contest while averaging 4.4 yards per carry this season. The Gamecocks put up an average of 27.8 points per contest in scoring offense while they are solid defensively, allowing 17.7 points per game this year. Zion Webb has completed 110 of 188 passes for 1,524 yards with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions while he is fourth in rushing with 316 yards plus four scores. Zerrick Cooper is 54 of 81 for 671 yards with one touchdown and one interception while adding 83 yards plus five scores on the ground. Josh Samuel leads the team with 131 carries for 707 yards plus seven scores. Uriah West (121 carries, 603 yards, five TD) and Pat Jackson (83 carries, 355 yards, two TD) are also in the mix. Dave Russell is second on the team with 24 receptions for 351 yards plus three scores. Trae Berry (27 grabs, 460 yards, TD), West (17 receptions, 195 yards, TD) and Ahmad Edwards (16 catches, 273 yards, three TD) are all solid options in the passing game. Alen Karajic is 36 of 38 on extra points and 14 of 19 on field goal tries with a long of 46 this season. Two of his five misses were blocked.
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Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Jacksonville State is a sparkling 9-2 on the year and they own a win over a FBS program from the fall when they knocked off FIU back in October. That makes them the lone FCS school with a win over an FBS program this season. The Gamecocks are a stingy defensive team and they are capable of making things tough for opposing teams. Jacksonville State has a massive experience edge when it comes to playing in the postseason, which can pay dividends. Davidson struggled against Presbyterian in their last contest, which came on the road, and now has to deal with a team that is used to this territory. The Wildcats will hang around but Jacksonville State’s experience carries them to a victory and on to the next round.
Full-Game Total Pick
Jacksonville State has put up some hefty point totals this season though most of their biggest numbers came in the fall against FBS programs. In the fall portion of their season, the Gamecocks saw totals of 65, 62, 41 and 29 points on the board. During the spring part of the schedule, we’ve seen Jacksonville State with totals of 37, 54, 57, 24, 23, 67 and 42 points. Davidson has seen totals of 49, 46, 65, 45, 56 and 53 points this season. The Gamecocks are likely the stingiest defense that the Wildcats have faced this season. That, coupled with the jitters of playing in a big game, helps keep this one under the total.