North Dakota State wins fifth straight FCS national championship _lowres

Jacksonville State head coach John Grass talks to offensive lineman Adam Wright (63) during the first half of the FCS championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Frisco, Texas. North Dakota State beat Jacksonville State 37-10 to win their fifth consecutive championship. (AP Photo/Mike Stone)

In 2009, Jacksonville State played at Florida State.

You probably recognize the name of the Seminoles quarterback: Christian Ponder.

Even more so, you probably recognize the name of the Gamecocks quarterback: Ryan Perrilloux.

Perrilloux passed for 213 yards and ran for 78 in that game, and FSU needed to score 12 points in the final three minutes to overcome a 9-7 deficit and win 19-9.

The following year, the Gamecocks rallied from 31-10 halftime deficit to beat Ole Miss 49-48 in double overtime. Last year, Jacksonville State had a victory against Auburn “in the bag,” as Perrilloux put it, before losing in overtime, 27-20.

So why are the Gamecocks — the 2015 FCS national runner-up and No. 21 LSU’s opponent in the home opener Saturday — so competitive against FBS competition?

"The difference between Jacksonville State and LSU is definitely the scale," said Perrilloux, now a business teacher and quarterback coach at East St. John High School. "When I say the scale, I’m talking about fan base, things of that nature. As far as preparation, it’s identical. It’s the exact same."

There’s another reason. Perrilloux's transfer from LSU in 2009 to Jacksonville State serves as a reminder: The Gamecocks are loaded with former FBS players.

This year's team has 13 ex-major college guys.

“The thing about this team we’re playing, they’re kind of a trick team,” Tigers defensive end Davon Godchaux said. “They got a lot transfers from big D-I schools. We can’t take this team lightly. They look very good on film.”

Nine former SEC players are now suited up for John Grass’ Gamecocks, which haven’t loss a conference game in two years. Most notably, former five-star prospect and Auburn running back Roc Thomas reunited with Grass, his high school coach, early in the summer.

South Carolina’s Al Harris Jr., Kentucky’s Regie Meant and Auburn defensive lineman Justin Thomas-Thornton found homes in Jacksonville, Alabama, in the offseason.

And don’t forget about former LSU receiver Kevin Spears. Current Tigers like safety Rickey Jefferson, Spears’ former roommate, receiver Travin Dural and safety Jamal Adams have all been in touch with Spears since he left Baton Rouge.

“I asked him how it’s going to feel for the first time actually get a chance to play in front of everybody at Tiger Stadium,” Dural said. “He’s really excited. We’ve been talking about this ever since he told us he was transferring. When we found out we played each other, he said that’s the one game I’m going to be looking forward to.”

“I talked to him this morning,” Adams said earlier this week. “I can’t really tell you what he told me, but I’m looking forward to it.”

But none of those former SEC players shine as brightly as a player who was recruited by Jacksonville State out of high school — All-American quarterback Eli Jenkins, who was rumored to have been courted by Auburn in the offseason.

Jenkins was one of just three Division I passers to throw for 2,700 yards and rush for 1,000 yards last season, running the offense Grass used in 20 years of high school coaching and one Miles compares to Auburn's scheme. 

Miles was clear the Tigers (0-1) have to “turn the page quickly” after the program’s first season-opening loss in 14 years.

"They have a very quality team around (Jenkins),” Miles said. “Nice offensive line, five starters that return. We recognize that they're a talented football team, and that we’re going to have to play well. And that’s good because we need to come off the experience we just had with a challenge."

LSU has never lost to an FCS opponent, but Jacksonville State shouldn’t be wowed by the environment. Since Perrilloux’s first year at JSU, the Gamecocks have played at least one FBS teams in seven of the last eight years, five of which were SEC schools.

JSU is 1-8 in those games, but a return trip to the FCS national title game will have no bearing on Saturday’s result. Perilloux, who is hoping to attend the game, said he believes the Gamecocks will be playing with house money.

“When you’re at a smaller school, when you get a chance to play against the big boys — when I say big boys, I’m talking about the Division I-level football players — you come out with a different mindset,” Perrilloux said. "You come out with, ‘We’re going to give it all every single play.’ Jacksonville State has nothing to lose in this football game.”