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Jenkins gives Jacksonville State a dynamic threat at quarterback

Jacksonville State quarterback Eli Jenkins waits for an interview session Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016, during media day at the Toyota Stadium complex in Frisco, Texas.David Samson / The Forum

FRISCO, Texas—Jacksonville State (Ala.) quarterback Eli Jenkins reminds North Dakota State of a couple players the team has faced the past couple of seasons.

Bison linebacker MJ Stumpf thinks Jenkins plays like Northern Iowa's Aaron Bailey, while defensive tackle Nate Tanguay feels Jenkins is similar to Illinois State's Tre Roberson.

"On film, (Jenkins) is as good a quarterback as we've faced," Bison head coach Chris Klieman said. "He's a dynamic football player. The one thing that I know with Jenkins is he's so explosive."

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Jenkins leads a potent Gamecocks offense into Saturday's Division I FCS national championship game, which starts at 11 a.m. at Toyota Stadium. Jacksonville State (13-1) is averaging 41 points per game.

"Eli Jenkins, I feel like he's one of a kind," said Jacksonville State wide receiver Josh Barge, who has more than 1,000 receiving yards this season.

Jenkins is a dual threat, passing for more than 2,700 yards and 21 touchdowns and rushing for more than 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns. The junior has completed 62 percent of his passes, throwing only six interceptions. Jenkins has led the Gamecocks to 12 consecutive wins after they lost in overtime at Auburn in the second game this season.

"He's grown into a mature quarterback who knows what to do with the ball ... commanding the offense," Jacksonville State head coach John Grass said.

The No. 1-seeded Gamecocks are averaging 53.7 points per game in three playoff games, including a 62-10 victory against Sam Houston State in the semifinals.

"They have the ability to score from anywhere on the field and that's the thing that has us most worried on defense," Klieman said. "We have to do a great job tackling."

Jenkins has elevated his game since his redshirt freshman season in which he played in 14 games and started eight. Last season, he started all 12 games for the Gamecocks. This season, Jenkins said he's improved his passing skills and has read defenses better.

Jacksonville State Gamecocks quarterback Eli Jenkins. John Reed-USA TODAY Sports"He's in control of that offense and it's beautiful when they get on a roll," Jacksonville State defensive end Chris Landrum said.

Jenkins relishes the chance to play against NDSU, which is the four-time defending FCS national champions.

"To be the best, you've got to beat the best," Jenkins said. "And clearly when you think of an FCS team, you think of North Dakota State. They're top notch."

Eric Peterson
Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.

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