Instead, he was more concerned with trying to get away from his teammates mobbing him.
But even with a good head start toward the JSU locker room, the Gamecocks weren't going to be denied the privilege of celebrating the win with him. After all, it was Thomas's first game-winning kick of his career.
“It was a little nerve-wracking,” Thomas said. “It was leaning to right a little bit, then it curved back in the middle. It looked good, but I took my eye off it and started running before it even hit the ground. I didn't see the end of it. I was just trying to run away from everybody.”
Thomas was put into position to win the game for the Gamecocks (1-1) thanks to Centre native Gabriel Chambers' 34-yard kick return to the JSU 45 with 33 seconds left in the game. Senior quarterback Marques Ivory took it from there, completing 3 of 4 passes to drive the ball down to Chattanooga 33. Sophomore running back DaMarcus James took a draw play and ran for 13 more yards to the 20. The Gamecocks called timeout with one tick left on the clock, which was all the time Thomas needed.
The Mocs (0-2) tried to ice Thomas with a timeout of their own, but to no avail.
Thomas's kick spoiled the Mocs' rally from a 17-0 deficit and tie the game at 24 on their previous possession. Freshman quarterback Jacob Huesman tossed a 16-yard scoring strike to a wide open sophomore receiver Ron Moore with 39 seconds left in the game, bringing the Mocs within two points at 24-22.
Sophomore running back Keon Williams tied the game with a two-point conversion run, and the game appeared to be headed to overtime before JSU worked its late-game magic.
Despite escaping with the win, JSU coach Jack Crowe knows there's a lot the Gamecocks need to work on during their bye week.
“We had a hard fought game against a very quality football team, and we made a lot of mistakes,” Crowe said. “We have a lot of work to do, but we won, and there wasn't a step a player took out there that I had a problem with in terms of what they did. There was some hard intent. We have got to learn how to turn it loose, but having said that we have a quality football team.
“We didn't have as good of an offensive rhythm as we did with Arkansas. On defense, they were running the option and it's not that we were missing tackles, but we weren't focused enough to play assignment football. I was impressed that the players and coaches didn't panic. That is the difference from last year to this year.”
Thomas got things going for the Gamecocks with his 33-yard field goal with 5:35 left in the first quarter, giving JSU a 3-0 lead.
The Gamecock defense scored the game's first touchdown with 2:21 left in the opening quarter after Huesman was stripped of the ball by junior linebacker Rashad Smith. The ball was scooped up by Gamecock sophomore safety Pierre Warren, who raced 75 yards for the score to give JSU at 10-0 lead.
Smith led the Gamecock defense with 15 total tackles.
James added to the Gamecock lead on a 43-yard touchdown run with 4:48 left in the half, making it 17-0 Gamecocks.
The Mocs finally got on the board just before the half ended. Huesman capped a 12-play, 53-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. Nick Pollard's extra point made it 17-7 Gamecocks at intermission.
Huesman led the Mocs in rushing and passing. He accumulated 166 yards on 21 carries and scored a touchdown on the ground. Huesman also completed 18 of 30 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns through the air.
Jacksonville State got the ball to begin the third quarter, but an Ivory pass was picked off by junior linebacker Gunner Miller. Following a 25-yard return, the Mocs set up at the JSU 35. Six plays later, Pollard connected on a 30-yard field goal to pull Chattanooga within seven at 17-10.
JSU answered with an 8-play, 77-yard drive in which junior quarterback Coty Blanchard connected with James on a 30-yard touchdown pass with 7:54 left in the third quarter. The touchdown gave the Gamecocks a 24-10 advantage.
Blanchard finished the game completing 2 of 3 passes for 38 yards.
Chattanooga responded with a 7-play, 50-yard drive capped by Huesman's 4-yard scoring strike to freshman receiver Tray James. Pollard's PAT bounced off the right side of the goal post, keeping JSU's lead at 24-16 with 4:30 remaining in the third quarter.
That set the stage for the Mocs' game-tying score in late in the fourth, followed by Thomas's game-winning kick.
Ivory completed 14 of 19 passes for 156 yards. Senior receiver Alan Bonner led the Gamecock receivers with five catches for 70 yards.
James led the Gamecock rushers with 120 yards on 16 carries with a touchdown. True freshman and Anniston native Troymaine Pope tallied 100 yards on 12 carries. Both players were called upon to carry the majority of the rushing load following senior tailback Washaun Ealey's arrest and suspension earlier this week.
“My name was called, so I had to execute,” James said. “When you get your chance, you've just got to do what you've got to do.”
Added Pope: “The offensive line did all the work. I was just going out there to play my game. We (Pope and James) feel like we're a good one-two punch. We went out there and did our jobs when they called on us. You've got to shine when you get the opportunity.”
Following their bye on Saturday, the Gamecocks open Ohio Valley Conference play at Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 22.