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CSN Inside the OVC: Time to lace up the cleats and buckle the chin straps

floated rightBy James D. Horne, CSN Inside the OVC Columnist

The OVC begins its 62nd year of football with five members getting things started with games Thursday and the final three kicking off the season Saturday.

Thursday’s games see Iowa Wesleyan (1-0) at UT Martin (0-0), Quincy (1-0) at Southeast Missouri (0-0), No. 24 Eastern Kentucky (0-0) at Indiana (0-0), Illinois State (0-0) at Eastern Illinois (0-0) and Kentucky Wesleyan at Murray State (0-0).

Saturday’s games are No. 19 (FCS) Jacksonville State (0-0) at No. 15 (FBS) Georgia Tech (0-0), Alabama A&M (0-0) at Tennessee State (0-0) in the John Merritt Classic and Newberry (1-0) visiting Austin Peay (0-0).

Only Tennessee Tech will miss out on the festivities this week. The Golden Eagles play their first game at home next Thursday.


With all the days spent in the just-completed camps, the teams opening Thursday and not Saturday are expectedly excited to get the season going.

“If I had my druthers, and the fact we’re coming out of camp, I’d rather play on Thursday because of all the time we’ve had to prepare,” Tennessee State coach James Webster said. “The other thing about playing on a Thursday is teams make their biggest improvement between the first and second games. That means it gives us the opportunity to prepare more for our second game that will be on a Saturday.”

Playing on Thursday also helps to get students involved quicker because many of the OVC universities started classes this week. And many students don’t stick around on the weekends.

“My administration asked me to find a game on Thursday night,” UT Martin coach Jason Simpson said. “We went back to school on Monday, and we think it’s good to get a good crowd and have students stay around. Anytime we can play on a Thursday at home, we’re going to try to take advantage of that.”

ONE IN THE HOPPER: Four of the teams OVC programs are opening against are opponents that already have a game under their belts.

Because most coaches believe that teams make their biggest improvement from the first to second week, it means some of the OVC schools that haven’t played are already at a disadvantage.

“You always want to play a game. That way you feel like you have the chance to get all the bugs out,” Southeast Missouri State coach Tony Samuel said. “Anymore, with parity, a team can always come up and bite you, but you always want to play well against a Quincy because that is a money game for them. But they had one last week and won it so who knows.”

If anything, OVC teams will learn what kind of opponents they are getting.

“Anyone who plays a first game you have to worry about,” APSU coach Rick Christophel said. “Coach Webster is right that the biggest improvement comes between the first and second games. They (Newberry) scored 31 points and held a ranked Valdosta State team to 17. So now we have to think about how we’re going to score, while keeping them from scoring.”

CONFERENCE TIDBITS: APSU is 25-45-2 in openers … SEMO is 7-11 in season openers since joining the OVC in 1991 … Thursday marks the 98th meeting in the Prairie State Rivalry between Eastern Illinois and Illinois State. The series, began in 1901, is the longest in the state of Illinois and Illinois State leads all-time 50-38-9 … EKU is 4-13 all-time against FBS schools, with its last victory coming in 1985, a 45-21 triumph over Louisville … Jacksonville State opens for the second straight year at Georgia Tech. The two teams played on Aug. 28 last season, a 41-14 Tech victory in Atlanta … TSU and Alabama A&M have played against each other in the JMC in 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. A&M holds a 3-2 record in those previous meetings.

This Week In the OVC (All Times Central)

Thursday’s Games

Iowa Wesleyan Tigers (1-0, 0-0 MSFA) at UT Martin Skyhawks (0-0, 0-0 OVC), 6 p.m., Hardy M. Graham Stadium (7,500)/Martin, Tenn.
QUICK HITTER: This is the first meeting between the two teams.

Quincy Hawks (1-0, 0-0 MSFA) at Southeast Missouri State Redhawks (0-0, 0-0 OVC), 6 p.m., Houck Stadium (10,000)/Cape Girardeau, Mo.
QUICK HITTER: This is the second meeting between the two. During the 2001 season, the Redhawks topped the Hawks 38-6 at Houck Stadium.

No. 24 Eastern Kentucky Colonels (0-0, 0-0 OVC) at Indiana Hoosiers (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten), 7 p.m., Memorial Stadium (52,692)/Bloomington, Ind.
QUICK HITTER: Eastern Kentucky will square off with Indiana for the first time.

Illinois State Redbirds (0-0, 0-0 MVFC) at Eastern Illinois Panthers (0-0, 0-0 OVC), 7 p.m., O’Brien Field (10,000)/Charleston, Ill.
QUICK HITTER: Both head coaches once played quarterback at Purdue.

Kentucky Wesleyan Panthers (0-1, 0-0 GLFC) at Murray State Racers (0-0, 0-0 OVC), 7 p.m., Roy Stewart Stadium (16,800)/ Murray, Ky.
QUICK HITTER: Murray State and Kentucky Wesleyan are playing for the second time and first since the 1999 season, a 53-0 Racers’ shutout.

Saturday’s Games

No. 19 (FCS) Jacksonville State Gamecocks (0-0, 0-0 OVC) at No. 15 (FBS) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (0-0, 0-0 ACC), Noon, Bobby Dodd Stadium (55,000)/Atlanta, Ga.
QUICK HITTER: JSU’s Greg Smith is playing his first season at the school after competing his first three years at Georgia Tech

Newberry College (1-0, 0-0 SAC) at Austin Peay Governors (0-0, 0-0 OVC), 6 p.m., Governors Stadium (10,000)/Clarksville, Tenn.
QUICK HITTER: This year’s senior class is the first for APSU’s program since returning to scholarship football.

Alabama A&M Bulldogs (0-0, 0-0 SWAC) at Tennessee State Tigers (0-0, 0-0 OVC), 6 p.m., LP Field (67,500)/Nashville, Tenn.
QUICK HITTER: The JMC is the only football “Classic” solely hosted by a single NCAA FCS institution and is intended to allow TSU to raise funds for scholarships and other related needs of TSU students.