GAME #60
Saturday, August 26, 2023

UTEP Miners: 0-0
@ Jacksonville State Gamecocks: 0-0


JSU Stadium
Jacksonville, Alabama

Trip Dates 8/25/2023 – 8/27/2023
School Jacksonville State University
Visiting Team UTEP Miners
Pre-game Record: 0-0
Home Team Jacksonville State Gamecocks
Pre-game Record: 0-0
Game Time (ET) 5:30 PM Eastern (4:30 local)
Weather 97 & Sunny
Attendees Jarrett, Al, Mac & Trey 
Jarrett’s Pick UTEP Miners
(39 and 20 record)
Al’s Pick Jacksonville State Gamecocks
(35 and 24 record)
Attendance 17,982
Capacity 24,000
Length of Game 3:15
Seat Location General Admission – Goal Line, Approx. 35th Row – Shade
Miles Traveled 1,607
Photo Album Click here for the JSU Photo Album



The 2023 season of The Quest began with another very early wake up call.  But this time it was not a 6am flight from LGA.  It was a 6am flight from PBI.  That is Palm Beach International Airport all of y’all.  I am now officially a Floridian having made the move from NY to Florida over the winter.  So I packed my black socks and sandals and headed off to PBI.  Al and I would now need to meet each other at our destinations instead of NY airports.  This adds an additional level of coordination and planning into CFQ HQ’s tasks during the off season.  There is a pool on the first trip where this gets royally screwed up and we end up at different airports or one of us makes it and the other doesn’t.  No doubt someone at HQ is going to get fired.  My money is on Ralph in the lodging department.

In any event, I can certainly say that flying out of PBI is better than any NY airport with the exception of Islip.  Parking was right next to the terminal without needing a second mortgage and security was a breeze, although at 5am it was never a problem in NY either.  But the downside is that almost all flights I will have to connect unless I go down to Fort Lauderdale which is far less convenient.  Hence my 6am flight, as I needed to connect in Atlanta to get to Birmingham, while Al had a direct flight.  

Once on board, one travel note to the idiot in the middle seat on the way from PBI to Atlanta, which was a full flight.  If you get on last with a rollerboard that does not fit in the overhead bin, and you decide to shove it under the seat where it does not fit and then proceed to put a backpack on top of it and for some reason the flight attendants do not see this and make you move it, do not think you are going to be able to put your feet in my space.  You are going to sit with your knees bent up the whole flight.  And when we land and you say to the woman in the window that it was uncomfortable but at least you did not have to check the bag, do not expect me to have any sympathy.  I will also not get up into the aisle when we get to the gate.  I will wait until it is our turn to get off the plane before getting up.  You made everyone in the row uncomfortable because you are rude, so if you are uncomfortable, look in the mirror and have some consideration for the people around you.

Another travel note, the flight from PBI to ATL arrived at gate B25 and the flight from ATL to BHM departed from B23. When does that ever happen in Atlanta? The answer is never. It is always D99 to A1.

Despite Al having a direct flight and my having to connect, I arrived ahead of him and had to wait at BHM for him to arrive. The LGA flight was delayed, but only by about 15 minutes for arrival. This waiting for Al at airports is going to get old fast. But alas, Al did arrive with Mac and Trey along for the ride. Al is a big fan of the Week 0 games so he can bring a few kids before school starts. FYI, school in Florida has already started as Beth is following our neighborhood facebook page and there are many bus issues. Why she is reading that stuff, I will never know. Why she tells me about it is even more confusing.

Al would like to inject a side note for the multi-billion dollar upgrade at Laguardia Airport. “Dear Idiots at the Port Authority and New York State, there is still NO WAY to get between terminals by FOOT. There is absolutely no reason to have to take a bus from Terminal C to Terminal D when you randomly move Gates…and btw, this bus should not have to LEAVE the airport to do so. Suggestion….just make a covered walkway outside of the terminal. This shouldn’t be so hard. Connect the parking garages with elevated bridges/walkways. But do something. It took an hour to get from C to D…when the walk, even with kids in tow, would have been 10 minutes. You still suck Laguardia.”

We set out on the drive from BHM to Jacksonville, Alabama. This whole thing of multiple city names in different states has to end. I think there are 23 places named Jacksonville in the US. How stupid is that?

Anyway, not far into the drive, I realized that the drive on I-20 would take us right past Buc-ee’s. After ascertaining that Al, Mac and Trey have never been, it became a must stop. I am new to the Buc-ee’s thing but you gotta go. Of course we visited the restrooms and purchased multiple snacks including the famous beef jerky. Which required the bathrooms again and it was an endless loop, not really but seems like that would be the case. Nothing like hopping the kids up on sugar right before a car ride. I even got to take my picture with Buc-ee and was rewarded with stickers. Beth was very jealous of the stop at Buc-ee’s, not the stickers. But I did bring the stickers home with me.

Jacksonville State University
We arrived at Jax State and walked around a little bit. Here’s the thing with Week 0, it’s hot. Our plan is to normally start in the north and work our way south as the season progresses. Normally we learn this lesson the hard way by being very cold in the north later in the year. Today we learned it the opposite way by being in the south in August. It was 98 degrees. Did I mention it was hot. So we walked around just a tad.

We found the bookstore and Al found his usual shirt and the kids found some footballs. The bookstore was either out of shot glasses or they did not sell them. I never got a clear answer on that. When asking where else we could get Jax State merch, we were referred to the WalMart instead of another off campus bookstore type of place. That is never a good sign. A note to the athletic director’s “marketing team”…when you have a real Division 1 football team, with 5 or 6 home games a year, your students WILL BUY CLOTHES most weeks for the games because their parents WILL send them money. Themed games are the easiest, followed by the ever so jinxy “color-outs”. Parents will show up….CFQ will show up….we need stuff to buy, you need stuff to sell. In marketing, it’s called a win-win. Get more stuff.

We needed a break from the heat, so we headed to WalMart on the outskirts of Jacksonville. They did have a Jax State merch section, but no shot glasses. I would need to call in reinforcements later and put Beth to work on the interwebs.

It was then off to DQ for lunch before continuing with a driving tour of campus.  Jax State is a small campus and town so there was not much to drive around and see.  We were able to cover most of the campus and town in a short time period. 

Next up was the Pete Mathews Coliseum which serves as the basketball arena. We toured inside and had a look around. Thanks to google, Al was able to research that in 1974 Billy Joel played a concert there with Kansas. Who would have believed that? But I saw Meatloaf perform in a ballroom on the UF campus, so who knows. Rumor has it that Jody flew in for that concert back in ‘74 but it is unconfirmed. If Fish was also playing that night, there would be no doubt.

After finishing at Jax State, we obtained the usual picture in front of the school sign that we try to get at every stop and then the decision was made to head to the hotel as Mac and Trey adamantly wanted to use the pool at the hotel. There is just something about a hotel pool that draws kids like moths to a flame.

Hotel Finial, BW Premier
Now a word about the hotel that we chose for this trip. Somewhere early on in the Quest, we developed a hard rule that states, no hotels where the doors open to the outside, the doors must open to a hallway. In doing travel research for this trip, the staff at CFQ HQ, presented us with two options, what looked like a run down Hampton Inn close to Jacksonville State or this Hotel Finial, which looked much nicer, but was about 15-20 minutes away and broke the cardinal rule of hotel stays as the doors opened to the outside. I was inclined to go with Hotel Finial and make an exception, so it went to Al for final sign off. Al did extensive research calling the hotel, making field visits (not really), and speaking with past guests (that would be weird). After signing off in triplicate to satisfy the lawyers and next of kin, we pulled the trigger and went with Hotel Finial.

Well, we arrived and were met with a steel gate that we needed to get past to get into the parking lot. I will say the initial impression was that the hotel was in a so-so area, but once inside the steel gates it was quite nice. Unlike other hotels when doors open to the outside, the parking lot was off to the side so cars were not an issue and the room doors opened to a courtyard and not a parking lot. The pool area was nice. My only issue was that after being in the room for an hour or so, a herd of elephants checked in above me and a baby was in the room next to me. I easily switched rooms and had no problems the rest of the time. And I will even add that the shower in this hotel was one of the best hotel showers I have ever experienced. So this was a gamble that paid off. I do not see us taking this gamble often as it was taken really only because of a lack of other options, but it worked out quite well.

Dinner was at Texas Roadhouse which was a favorite of Mac and Trey. Still a bit full from DQ, I opted for the full slab of ribs. What a wise choice! Lucky for me, I did not like them enough to want to eat much of them. This is not one of my favorite places. And I couldn’t even throw peanut shells on the floor. They do not do that there any more.

Back to the hotel for some sleep after a very early wake up.

Saturday Pregame

Saturday morning was a lazy late wake up around the hotel.  There was no rush to get out as it was a 4:30 local time kick and we had seen what we wanted to see the day before.  Al had received an email from someone on the Jax State athletics staff with some good options of local places to eat, so we headed out to Jefferson’s.  We had a very nice lunch and I opted for a steak quesadilla which was quite good. But FYI, this is a franchise, so not exactly a sense of local culture, but this area is the heart of chains and franchises.  

We parked and headed to the tailgate area. We stumbled into the Gamecocks Walk and watched the team exit the buses and head to the locker room. It was at this point that I began to doubt my pick that I had planned to make on the game. But more on that later.

We entered the stadium plenty early in order to ensure seating in the shade.  Did I mention that it was hot again today?  As an aside, I really hope that it cools off in the next two weeks as Bryant Denny Stadium with over 100k people is going to be really hot for the Texas game in two weeks if it doesn’t get cooler.


Al and I headed down to the field for some pics before settling into our seats for the game. BTW, we had to walk outside the stadium to get into the press box area. Did we miss a turn at Albuquerque? Could be…just seemed like a missed opportunity for a better stadium set up, possibly?

The Game

First, the picks.  For those of you unaware, Al and I are engaged in a Quest long contest to pick the games we attend, without spread, mainly because neither one of us are familiar with the concept of a spread and all those gambling like terms.  As an aside, how do you ensure sarcasm comes across in print? You would think this would be easier without the spread but our record would indicate otherwise.  Going into this game, I had a 5 game lead on Al.  I had been planning on picking JSU all week.  At the Gamecock walk JSU had two team buses, while walking to the stadium I noticed that  UTEP had four team buses.  JSU also looked very small.  Doubt crept into my pick.  All week, I knew UTEP would have the better line play and was larger up front.  It would be UTEP’s ability to stop the run versus JSU’s ability to run.  Speed versus strength.  In pregame, I was able to assess that JSU had the better kickers.  I also felt that JSU had better coaching.  But at the last minute, I flipped my pick to UTEP.  Al went with JSU.

Jacksonville State won their first FBS game by picking off a UTEP pass at the JSU 22 yard line with 1:15 on the clock to seal the game. This INT came on a 4th and 1 play, after UTEP threw an incomplete pass on a 3rd and 1 the play previous. This was one of many inexplicable coaching decisions by UTEP. The question must be asked, does it make sense to not run on either 3rd or 4th and 1 behind a dominant offensive line with the game on the line? The issue is not going for the 4th down instead of kicking the game tying field goal, but the play calling.
One may argue, and I do, that UTEP had the better team on the field in this game, but UTEP could not overcome 3 turnovers to none for JSU, and what appeared to be a significant coaching edge that was on the JSU sideline. UTEP also made an interesting coaching decision in the 1st quarter going for a 4th down on their first possession at around mid field. The interesting call was not to go for it, but the formation was everybody in tight which made you believe they were going for the defense to jump offsides. It was not a formation for 4th and 3. It was a 4th and inches formation. UTEP then snapped the ball and tried to sneak the edge out for a pass. The defense clearly held the receiver on the play, but it was a play call that was called to try and get a penalty. The ref blew the call and did not throw the flag and the ball went to JSU.
I think when the UTEP coaching staff looks back on this game and reviews film, they will see that they went away from plays that had success in favor of plays that just did not work and did not make adjustments off of that. On the flip side JSU played fast and wore down the larger UTEP Miners. To the point that JSU played fast even when it was in their interest to slow things down. I am not sure this worked as UTEP was in position to win, but the final score had JSU on top. I think both teams have some things to work on, but I would rather work on things from the winning side than the losing side. So JSU’s first foray into FBS football was a success.

UTEP outgained JSU 364-275, ran 72 plays to 64 for JSU, and possessed the ball for 35 minutes versus 25 for JSU although that means little when a team plays fast versus a team that plays a bit more deliberate. It seemed like there were many times when UTEP dropped back to pass, there were receivers running wide open down the field, but the connection was just not made.

JSU should celebrate their first FBS game and a win. It is a huge milestone for a program making the jump up in class and a win over a team that is not a pushover. Both teams have significant work to do to compete at the top level of CUSA, but this was Week 0 and it is a long season.

In the land of chains and franchises, not much was open after the game. So we ended up at Applebee’s for dinner. There was a wait because while there were tables open, they were not clean and it looked like the location was a bit short of staff. It was a typical Applebee’s dinner and I will leave it at that. Moving on.

Sunday travel was actually good. Al had an earlier flight than I did, so we arrived at BHM early and I was able to get on a flight standby to Atlanta. Then in a fortuitous stroke of luck, I was the second to last person to get onto a flight standby from Atlanta to PBI. So I got home a few hours earlier than planned. When will that happen again?

The UTEP Miners finished the season 3-9, 2-6 in Conference USA. UTEP would not play in a bowl game.

Jacksonville State finished the season 8-4. The Gamecocks were 6-2 in Conference USA which was good enough for 3rd place. Jacksonville State earned a berth in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl where they defeated the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns 34-31 in OT, to finish the year 9-4.

Photo Gallery
For our Jacksonville State photo album, Please click here. You can view as a collage or run as a slideshow. There are comments to explain what is in the photo but most are self explanatory. Thanks to Google, I can no longer embed the slide show with comments.