Jacksonville State’s head football coach Rich Rodriguez spoke to local media on Tuesday regarding his team’s last game of the season against the second ranked team in the ASUN conference, the Central Arkansas Bears.
“For us it’s our last game, so we might as well empty the tank,” Rodriguez said. “For our seniors it’s the last game they’ll ever play as a collegiate player, and that means a lot to me.”
The ASUN conference said earlier in the year that Jacksonville State could not be recognized as conference champions, due to the team moving up to Conference USA next year. However, that will not stop Jacksonville State, who is undefeated in conference games this season, from recognizing this game as an opportunity to become unofficial “conference champions.”
“I’m not sure what the ASUN’s thoughts are, but our thought is that we can win the conference outright in this next game,” Rodriguez said. “For us, we’re going to proclaim the championship and get the rings, the t-shirts, and all the other things that come with it. These players, and these seniors, deserve just that.”
The Jacksonville State Gamecocks were picked fourth in the preseason ASUN coaches poll, prior to the teams 8-2 season. Coach Rodriguez spoke on where his team is today, compared to where they were in the preseason, and how they were undervalued in then.
“I thought we’d at least be picked in the top half of teams if I’m being honest,” Rodriguez said. “There were six teams and we were picked in the bottom part of it, so let’s try to prove that we’re better than that on Saturday.”
JSU came into the season knowing that there would be no playoffs for them. However, the team had no problem finding motivation this season, which led to a lot of winning along the way.
“If you’re a competitor keeping score, I think the motivation is going to be there no matter what,” Rodriguez said. “The seniors, the captains, helped to set a good tone with that from Day 1.
Sophomore tight end Sean Brown and senior defensive back Yul Gowdy spoke at the press conference on Tuesday as well. They spoke on having the opportunity to become conference champions this weekend, as well as some of the challenges they faced this season.
“The ASUN might not recognize us as champions if we do win, but in everybody’s books here we will be champions,” Brown said. “If we win, this will be my fourth conference championship in a row, and I take great pride in knowing that.” Gowdy said.
The Gamecocks will travel to Central Arkansas to play the Bears this Saturday, November 19th. Kickoff will be at 4 p.m. CT, and the game will broadcasted live on ESPN+ for all the JSU faithful to watch.