The junior running back set the Ohio Valley Conference record for touchdowns in a season when he scored three in Jacksonville State’s 42-34 win over Southeast Missouri.
That gave him 23 touchdowns for the season, breaking the OVC record of 21 set by Eastern Kentucky’s Elroy Harris in 1988.
James has scored at least one touchdown in each of the last nine games. It was the fifth time this year he has scored at least three touchdowns in a game. Amazingly, he scored only one in the Gamecocks’ first three games.
“I feel good about (the record),” James said. “It just feels like a blessing to come out and play the game.”
James rushed for 206 yards against the Redhawks to surpass 1,000 yards for the season and 2,000 yards for his three-year career. His 1,180 yards this season is sixth on JSU’s single-season list.
“He was something to see tonight,” Gamecocks coach Bill Clark said. “He’s such a fun guy to be around because he literally works like that every day. This is a guy who works for it. I’m not saying he’s not talented, because he is, but it’s not just on talent. He comes and works like that in practice.
“It’s great to see a guy like that break these records. It’s also great knowing I’ve got him back for another year.”
James scored on runs of 1 and 15 yards in the first quarter and had an 8-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. He went over the 1,000-yard mark in the drive that produced his second touchdown and went over the 2,000-yard career mark on the drive that produced his third.
The Jacksonville State football team might be employing an up-tempo offense, but the Gamecocks haven’t exactly been known as fast starters this season.
But they were as fast on the scoreboard as they ever were Saturday in a game they absolutely had to win.
The Gamecocks scored touchdown on each of their first three possessions and erupted for 21 points in the first 10 minutes of the game. They racked up 204 yards of total offense in the quarter, with 164 of it coming on the ground.
“We were always talking about getting out fast,” quarterback Eli Jenkins said. “I think we did pretty good today.”
The 21 points were the most the Gamecocks scored in the first quarter since putting up the same number against SEMO in November 2009.
Entering the day the Gamecocks had scored only 63 points in the first quarter all season.
There was a lot driving the Gamecocks in their final regular-season home game Saturday.
For the most part, the effort their put forth was to give their 14 seniors something good to go out on.
“We’d been saying all week we were going to play for our seniors,” Jenkins said. “Not saying this is our last game, but it was like our last regular-season game, the seniors’ last regular-season game, so we kept saying we were going to play for them.”
Senior guard Taylor Johnstone called his Senior Day experience “great.” All 14 of them were introduced with their families before the game and the team and all served as captains for the game. The team wore a specially designed helmet for the occasion, with the gamecock logo on one side and Alabama-style numbers on the other.
“The main goal today was just to get a win. We just wanted to go out with a win,” Johnstone said. “We accomplished it.”
More than stats
If the Gamecocks don’t receive a postseason bid today, tight end Gavin Ellis will finish his senior season with one catch, a 17-yard grab at Georgia State.
He was one of the state’s most prolific receivers coming out of high school, but his future — and the NFL scouts are interested — lies beyond the numbers.
“The scouts have pretty much said don’t worry about catches,” Ellis said. “One of them sat me and down and said you’ve got something a lot of guys don’t have.
“Who’s going to want a player who had one catch his senior year? I don’t worry about that. I’m going to train hard in the offseason.”
In the spring, in training camp, and even in practice, he has gotten as many catches as some receivers — it just hasn’t happened in the games. Don’t get the impression he is complaining. He said he wouldn’t trade his experience at JSU for anything.
“I hadn’t said a single word to any coach about getting the ball,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed my senior year. I’m going to do what it takes for our team to be successful.”
The Gamecocks await their postseason fate today when the FCS playoff bracket is announced at 10:30 a.m. on ESPNU.
One national media outlet, The Sports Network, is projecting a JSU-Samford first-round game with the winner playing No. 4 seed Southeastern Louisiana.
Geographically, the game makes sense, although the Bulldogs might not think too much of it. The Gamecocks had beaten Samford the final eight times the teams played before the series ended in 2007. The only game JSU has lost in the series since 1998 was in 1999 and Mike Williams resigned as the Gamecocks head coach two days later.