Lions fall to rival Jacksonville State

The UNA football team went on the road in their season opener to take on the Jacksonville State Gamecocks and return to Florence with a loss.

Despite opening the season 0-1, UNA head coach Bobby Wallace said he had nothing but positive comments to say about the competitive spirit of his team against last year’s FCS runner-up.

“I was proud of the way our players fought.” Wallace said. “We played one of the best (FCS) teams in the nation and played hard. There’s a lot to be proud of.”

The JSU offense dominated the first half, and Gamecocks quarterback Eli Jenkins was the focal point.

Jenkins led the way 124 yards passing with an additional 80 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

UNA had a tough time defending the duo of Jenkins and former Auburn running back Roc Thomas, who provided 51 yards and two touchdowns for JSU in the first half.

The Gamecocks’ up-tempo offense proved to be too much for the Lions’ defense, but UNA showed signs of life in the second quarter.

After being shut out in the passing game in the first quarter, Lions quarterback Jacob Tucker found receiver Julius Jones for a 9 yard touchdown pass to reduce Jacksonville State’s lead to 15. Senior kicker Kevin Henke missed the extra point wide right.

“Things are going to happen,” Henke said about the extra point. “Hopefully we can watch film and fix what was wrong.”

Things did not improve much for the Lions in the second half.

UNA opened the third quarter with Tucker running an improved offense. But the Lions could not capitalize on the opportunity with a touchdown and had to settle for a 47-yard field goal from Henke.

JSU extended their lead to 28-9 with a five-yard touchdown run from Roc Thomas — his third of the night.

In the fourth, Henke added another field goal for UNA, but that was not enough. JSU added a field goal of their own and ran out the clock to give the Gamecocks the 31-12 win.

“They were a good team,” Tucker said. “We showed good resilience and played hard till the end.”

The Lions will be off next week and will be back on Sept. 17 to face Valdosta State at Braly Stadium.