(STATS) -- Winning in the regular season hasn't been a problem for Jacksonville State, but getting past the second round of the FCS playoffs as the No. 3 seed has been a struggle.
The Gamecocks were upset at home in their opening playoff game for the third time in four seasons on Saturday, falling 17-7 to unseeded Kennesaw State before a mostly stunned 17,412 at Burgess-Snow Field.
Kennesaw (12-1), the Big South champion in just its third season as a program, will try to continue its 12-game winning streak at No. 6 seed Sam Houston State in the quarterfinals Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET kickoff)
Jacksonville State (10-2) was the national runner-up two years ago, and it hasn't lost to an Ohio Valley Conference or non-FBS opponent in the last four regular seasons. But Saturday's loss added to second-round exits, which include against Sam Houston in 2014 and Youngstown State last year.
"This was probably the worst offensive outing since I've been here," Jacksonville State coach John Grass said. "We weren't able to block and that didn't allow us to get anything going.
"I stand by the type of men these seniors are and what this program stands for. My heart goes out for these seniors. They didn't deserve to go out like this."
In the first-ever meeting between two schools separated by about 87 miles, Kennesaw controlled the game clock with its triple-option offense, gaining 213 yards on the ground against a Gamecocks defense that allowed only 63 rushing yards per game in the regular season. The Owls defense limited the Gamecocks to 187 yards -- just 54 in the second half.
Junior Chandler Burks passed for 126 yards and rushed for another 76 and a touchdown while becoming the first quarterback in Big South history to have 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 passing yards in the same season.
"What a heck of a football game. It wasn't pretty at times but we found a way to win," Kennesaw coach Brian Bohannon said. "I can't say enough good things about our football team. We kept fighting and Jacksonville State is a really, really good football team."
A Siran Neal fumble recovery led to Jacksonville State taking a 7-0 lead on Roc Thomas' 22-yard run with 4:20 remaining in the first half. But Kennesaw State countered with Justin Thompson's 25-yard field goal late in the half to close within 7-3.
In the second half, Kennesaw held the ball for nearly 22 minute. Darnell Holland's 9-yard touchdown run capped the opening drive of the second half and the Owls took the lead for good.
Burks scored from 2 yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter, making it 17-7.