DHS alum James gets OVC honor

By Jacksonville State University Sports Information

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – Jacksonville State won all four Ohio Valley Conference Football Players of the Week awards after the Gamecocks claimed a 27-24 win over Chattanooga on Sunday and is still the only school in OVC history to achieve all four honors in the same week.

DaMarcus James was named the Offensive co-Player of the Week, Rashad Smith was named Defensive Player of the Week, Griffin Thomas earned Special Teams Player of the Week and Troymaine Pope was named Newcomer of the Week.

James carried the ball 16 times for 120 yards and a touchdown and caught a 30-yard touchdown in Jacksonville State’s 27-24 victory over Chattanooga in its home opener. The rushing touchdown in the second quarter was the first of his career and put the Gamecocks on top 17-0. Midway through the third quarter he caught Coty Blanchard’s pass and scored from 30 yards out to cap an 8-play JSU drive and put his team on top 24-10. The Demopolis, Ala., native also had a key 13-yard rush that put the Gamecocks on the UTC 20-yard line with one second remaining in the game which setup Griffin Thomas’ 37-yard game winning field goal as time expired. He is the second different Jacksonville State player to rush for and catch a touchdown pass in the same game this season.

Smith had a career-high 15 tackles, including 11 solo stops in the Gamecock win on Saturday. The junior linebacker also forced a fumble that was returned by teammate Pierre Warren for a 75-yard touchdown in the opening quarter. Smith became the first JSU player to have 15 or more tackles in a game since 2009 (Alexander Henderson). The Ft. Walton Beach, Fla., native currently ranks 14th nationally in tackles (11.5/game) and fourth in forced fumbles (1.00/game).

Thomas connected on a pair of field goals, including the game-winner as time expired, in the win over the Mocs. The Snellville, Ga., native connected on a 33-yard field goal midway through the first quarter to give the Gamecocks a 3-0 lead. Later it was his 37-yarder as time expired that gave Jax State its first victory of the season. It marked the first game-winning field goal of Thomas’ career. The field goal capped a six-play drive that came after the Mocs had tied the game with just 39 seconds to play.

After leading the team in rushing (65 yards) in his collegiate debut at nationally-ranked Arkansas last week, Pope earned his first career start against Chattanooga on Saturday and netted his first career 100-yard game. The true freshman carried the ball 12 times for 105 yards, averaging 8.8 yards/carry against one of the top defensive teams in the Southern Conference. Pope joined teammate DeMarcus James in each reaching 100 yards on the night, giving JSU multiple 100-yard rushers in the same game for the first time since 2009. It marks the second-straight week Pope has earned the OVC Newcomer of the Week honor.

Jacksonville State became the first school in Ohio Valley Conference history to win all four football Player of the Week awards during the 2008 season.

Since the OVC began playing football in 1978, only nine other times has a school claimed three OVC Player of the Week awards during the same week and this marks the first time since Tennessee Tech won three awards during the 2010 season and the third time for Jax State.

Jacksonville State is off this Saturday and will open Ohio Valley Conference play at Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 22 on the road in Richmond, Kentucky.