The Jacksonville State Gamecocks are gearing up for their 2014 season opener on August 29 against the Michigan State Spartans. This will be the Gamecocks fifth time in seven seasons they have opened up to an FBS school. Friday night’s game will mark the 22nd time JSU has played against an FBS team.
Coach John Grass and the rest of the Gamecock crew are looking forward to making the trip to East Lansing, Mich. to play the defending Big Ten and Rose Bowl champions.
“It will be different playing on Friday for sure, but it’s going to be great playing on the Big Ten Network and a great opponent. It is an honor for our football team to play on that stage and travel there and get to play. We’re excited about it and excited just to get the season started. We get to see where we are as a team against a team that people are predicting to be in the national championship.”
Coach Grass says the Spartans have been very consistent over the course of the last few years and he says that it reflects in their coaching staff.
“Michigan State has a great program and I think Coach Dantonio does a superb job recruiting and they have been good in the past. When you think of Big Ten football, you think Michigan or Ohio State and Michigan State has dominated those teams the past few years. They have a solid program and an established program.”
This is going to be Grass’ debut as a head coach and he’s looking forward to playing on this stage in front of a large crowd on Friday.
“I got my feet wet last year and having the kind of year that we had last year will only help me. We didn’t get to play a game like this last year, so it will be fun for me. It will be the biggest crowd I have been in and it’s going to be exciting and that excitement is building this week.”
Senior Offensive lineman Max Holcombe, a Pre-Season All American, is returning this year and, like the rest of the team and coaching staff, is looking forward to the opportunity to playing against the Spartans.
“It’s great because I love playing in front of a big crowd. The excitement is great and you just feed off the fans. I know that the fans that we will have there will be loud. Our band is going, so they will be rocking. I love playing in the big stadiums and a great experience.”
Junior Defensive back Jermaine “Junior” Hough has been looking forward to this challenge since the Spring.
“The excitement of the game is like no other game. You really don’t get nervous out there because you are feeding off their fans. There are so many people out there and you just want to make that one play.”
Redshirt Freshman Offensive lineman Justin Lea is going to show his talents playing on this high level.
“It’s going to be new for me and being on the offensive line. I get to play next to guys like Max and other who have been there before. I’m really confident in our ability to perform at a high level. We are going up there and play with confidence.”
JSU has a 5-16 record against FBS opponents. The most memorable game against an FBS opponent came four years ago when the Gamecocks traveled to Oxford, Miss. to play Ole Miss and won in double overtime 49-48.
The Sports Network Top 25 poll ranks the Gamecocks at No. 6 while JSU is ranked eighth in the FCS Coaches Poll. The No. 6 ranking is the highest JSU has been ranked in their history of being in Division I. The previous highest ranking was ninth back in 2011. The 2014 season is the eighth straight season JSU have been in the top 25.
Gamecocks and Spartans will kickoff Friday, August 29 at 7:30 p.m. ET and can be heard on the Jacksonville State Gamecock Sports Network flagship station WLJS-FM 91.9 or online at jsugamecocksports.com. The game will also be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network.