Late surge not enough as UWA falls to Jacksonville State

JACKSONVILLE — West Alabama kept it close for most of the afternoon Saturday, but ultimately fell to Jacksonville State 45-34.

“We wanted to come in at halftime in a close ballgame and we did that,” UWA head coach Brett Gilliland said. “I really felt like the third quarter killed us. We had too many three-and-outs on offense and gave up too many third down conversions on defense.”

The Tigers trailed only 24-14 at half but saw a late third quarter surge by Jacksonville State all but put the game out of reach. With 2:10 left in the frame, Josh Barge hauled in a 13-yard touchdown pass from Max Shortell to up the advantage to 31-14. With 32 seconds left in the third, Barge scored his third touchdown of the game on a 14-yard pass from Christian LeMay.

A Jermaine Hough interception return of 34 yards for a score left the Gamecocks up 45-14.

From there, UWA would get its offense in gear. Kyle Caldwell scrambled away from pressure, juked a defender and fired to Markeyus Johnson, who took it 75 yards for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 45-21.

“The best thing I saw is we didn’t quit,” Gilliland said. “We told them at the start of the fourth quarter we were going to find out what we’re made of. We challenged them at the beginning of the fourth quarter to come back and make a game of it.”

“We knew we had to put the ball in the end zone to have a chance to come back and make it a game,” Caldwell said. “We were getting drives in the third quarter, we just weren’t finishing them.”

A few minutes later, Caldwell went over the top and found Randy Satterfield in stride for a 68-yard touchdown pass.

UWA got its final touchdown from Tyler Rogers, who punched it in from a yard out.

Gilliland’s crew started off hot, covering 67 yards in three plays to take an early lead. Jabari Baker rumbled 64 yards on the opening snap of the contest, setting up a 5-yard touchdown pass from Caldwell to Tyshaan Alston.

Jacksonville State was poised to tie the game when Darius Knox forced a fumble that Duke Leland recovered in the end zone. After a 70-yard punt by Caldwell, Eli Jenkins went over the top to Markis Merrill for an 88-yard touchdown pass.

Early in the second quarter, Shortell found Barge for a 32-yard scoring strike that punctuated an 85-yard drive that needed only three plays.

Connor Rouleau connected on a 38-yard field goal to up the Gamecock advantage to 17-7. DaMarcus James then padded the lead further with a 3-yard run off a direct snap, giving JSU a 24-7 advantage.

Caldwell then led his team on a 72-yard drive lasted nine plays and ended with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Chad Toocheck.

Caldwell ended with 356 yards and four touchdowns on 22-of-33 passing.

UWA (2-1) is set to face Concordia next week.