A strong showing by Eastern Illinois in the first half was wiped out by the second half dominance of No. 3 Jacksonville State to spoil Homecoming at O'Brien Field in Charleston.
The Gamecocks overcame a five-point halftime deficit to claim a 30-14 victory and take sole possession of first place in the Ohio Valley Conference. Jacksonville State (6-1, 4-0) won its fifth in a row and extended the record conference winning streak to 28 straight. The last time JSU lost a conference game was Nov. 16, 2013, when Eastern cruised to a 52-14 win.
Relying on its strong defense, the Panthers (5-3, 4-1) built a 14-9 halftime lead, marking the first time Jacksonville State had trailed at intermission of an OVC game since its last conference loss nearly four years ago.
EIU struck first late in the first quarter when quarterback Bud Martin beat a JSU blitz and found Darshon McCullough out of the backfield for a 40-yard touchdown.
Jacksonville State responded with a scoring drive of its own. However, a failed two-point conversion attempt left the Gamecocks trailing 7-6.
In the second quarter, EIU used a flea flicker pass to tight end James Sheehan to begin its second touchdown drive. Five plays later, Isaiah Johnson scored on a two-yard run as the Panthers stretched their lead to 14-6.
EIU would not score again. Meanwhile, Cade Stinnett banked a 50-yard field off the right upright and in as JSU drew to within 14-9 with 23 seconds left on the clock prior to halftime.
From there, the Gamecocks seized control. Quarterback Bryant Horn threw two touchdown passes to Krenwick Sanders in the third quarter as JSU shook off a sluggish start to post its 37th straight regular-season win against non-FBS opponents.
JSU's defense did its part as well, limiting the Panthers to only 83 scrimmage yards over the final 30 minutes.
Quotable . . .
"We knew we were going to have to come out and change the momentum after halftime. We came out with a different mindset against a good team, a playoff-caliber team. I thought we were smart with the football, and overall, pleased with the win."
--Jacksonville State head coach John Grass
. . . and notable
The loss snapped Eastern Illinois' four-game winning streak. The Panthers are 3-1 on the road this year but just 2-2 at home.
Players of the game
Jacksonville State running back Tramel Terry rushed 21 times for 84 yards and a touchdown.
JSU quarterback Bryant Horn was an efficient 15-of-27 for 164 yards and contributed 66 rushing yards on 12 carries.
Eastern Illinois quarterback Bud Martin completed 20-of-40 throws for 219 yards and a touchdown.
EIU defensive back Bradley Dewberry had a game-high 12 tackles (seven solo) and a half of a tackle-for-loss.
EIU defensive back Tray Mitchell had 11 tackles (eight solo) and a tackle-for-loss.
By the numbers
1.2 -- Average per rush by Eastern Illinois
3 -- Successful first downs by EIU in 13 attempts
5 -- Touchbacks by Jacksonville State
12 -- Mile-per-hour wind that blew south-southeast
14 -- More offensive plays run by Jacksonville State than EIU
27 -- Wins in the Ohio Valley Conference against no defeats by JSU head coach John Grass
Eastern Illinois plays at Tennessee-Martin Oct. 28 in Ohio Valley Conference action.