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Alabama State stays active on open date
If you want a day off, wait until December.
That was the message to the 19th-ranked Alabama State Hornets, who returned to the practice field on Tuesday morning in preparation for next week’s Magic City Classic matchup with Alabama A&M.
While the 2011 schedule will consider this week as an open date, it was business as usual for the Hornets, who will use the extra week in preparing for the Bulldogs, who have won five consecutive games.
“We’re going to focus all our time and attention on introducing Alabama A&M,” ASU football coach Reggie Barlow said. “The issues that we have – offense, defense and special teams – we’re all aware of, and in the process of preparing for A&M, we’re going to make some corrections on the running game and stopping the run.
“But we are who we are. We’re not having a lot of success stopping the run, and I looked at the stats and we’re No. 9 (in the Southwestern Athletic Conference) in rushing. Again, the hidden stat in this is that some of the short passes we throw in the flat or the quick slants are an extension of the run.”
Most college football programs use the open date as an opportunity for self evaluation, giving bruised and battered players a day or two off from the rigors of practice. While players with twisted ankles such as center Edmond Davis and guard David Hate may see a little more rest time this week, the schedule hasn’t changed. The Hornet coaching staff used the weekend for reflection and are full-steam ahead in their quest for the SWAC championship.
“Saturday (evening), Sunday and Monday were all dedicated to evaluating ourselves,” said ASU offensive line coach Willard Scissum. “I wanted them to see the film so they could watch themselves. The challenge was to look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if these techniques, these executions, are good enough to win the national championship.
“Do we really want to win the national championship or are we just talking?”
The Hornets remain No. 1 in all the black college football polls and moved up five spots to No. 19 in the Sports Network’s Football Championship Subdivision poll. Lurking beneath the exterior of an impressive five-game winning streak, however, is a run defense that is taking a weekly beating and an offensive line that has lost 11 players since the spring.
Scissum said the Hornets will become a better rushing team as the line improves.
“We need to be more physical and communicate better so we can pick up blitzes better,” Scissum said. “We’ve got to be more physical, we’ve got to block the right people and that comes from better communication.”
Senior receiver Nick Andrews said the players’ concentration this week is on “just being mentally focused, getting those reps in, getting guys back healthy and going over the small mistakes we had in games.”
Because Jackson State is ineligible for postseason play, this year the Hornets (6-1) can clinch a berth in the SWAC Championship Game by beating the Bulldogs on Oct. 29. The 70th Magic City Classic needs no additional hype, but the matchup between two teams on identical five-game winning streaks is the irst in the history of the series.
“They’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Barlow said. “They got off to a slow (0-2) start, but you can tell they’re a team that expects to win.”
Both teams had identical records in 2005 and a loss to the Bulldogs sent the Hornets into a four-game tailspin from which they never recovered. The only other similar matchup occurred in 1966, long before either team was a SWAC member. A 6-0 Alabama A&M team ran over a 4-1 ASU team 36-19 on the way to an 8-1 record.
“It’s a huge game,” Barlow said. “A&M is playing well and have a lot of confidence. This game (of football) is about repetition and the more you see it, the more comfortable you are with it. So I just think it’s a smart idea to go ahead and introduce it.”
by Tim Gayle, Montgomery Advertiser