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17 September 2007
JSU Putting Together a Puzzling Season

By Al Muskewitz
Star Sports Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

JSU’s Terrell Johnson breaks off a long run during Saturday’s 35-14 loss. At times the offense played well, especially in the red zone. Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star

Jack Crowe remains convinced his Jacksonville State football team has the ingredients to be a contender. What’s been holding it back is getting all the parts in the mixer at the same time.

Through the first three games this season, when the Gamecocks (1-2) seem to get one part of their game to rise to the top, something else sinks to the bottom.

In Saturday’s 35-14 loss at Memphis, they got productivity from the offense behind new starting quarterback Cedric Johnson, but the kicking game let them down with two missed field goals and a blocked punt.

They finally found the end zone from the red zone — twice — but the defense continued to give up big plays. And the offensive line got a vital starter back in center Tyler Ogletree, then potentially lost senior Carnillous Tables to a sprained ankle.

While all of that hurts, none of it is too damaging in these non-conference games. But with their Ohio Valley Conference schedule starting Saturday against Eastern Kentucky (1-2), the Gamecocks can ill-afford to come up short anymore.

"We have the pieces here to be a good football team, but inexperience, injuries and the right plan have just kept us from putting it all together,” Crowe said. “Some years it comes smoothly and some years it doesn’t.

“We’ve got one more chance to get it right and it’s called the conference … There’s an enormous amount of urgency when the things you have to do are present because we’re working up against a deadline to get it done.”

That deadline doesn’t come simply with the opening of the league season. And as long as the Gamecocks remain in the race they’re beating the clock.

Winning Saturday would put them on the right track to a third OVC title in five years. A loss would put them in catch-up mode. They’ve never lost their conference opener since joining the OVC.

“I don’t think you’re in or out of the race just playing Eastern Kentucky,” Crowe said, “but I think you’re certainly on the clock when that game starts, because you never know what it’s going to take when you start out the conference.

“I’ve been trying to get a read on the conference. I don’t see anybody who’s a lot better off than we are right now.”

The only teams with an edge entering the week are Eastern Illinois and Tennessee State, teams that have already won their OVC opener.

Actually, the Gamecocks aren’t in that unfamiliar a territory heading into their conference opener. They were 1-2 after three games in 2006 (but 1-1 in the league) and 0-3 two years ago. In both years they put together winning streaks during the league season to play themselves into position for a share of the OVC title in the last game of the year.

“I think we’re where we’ve been at times before, but it has a renewed sense of urgency about it,” Crowe said. “You sort of feel when you get in these situations, it’s more urgent than it was before. I think you forget sometimes how urgent those times were.

“History says we’re going to be in this race until the end. I really think we will. I see the pieces.”

Jax State vs. E. Kentucky
Saturday, 2 p.m., TV-24, FM 91.9

About Al Muskewitz

Al Muskewitz covers golf and Jacksonville State University sports teams for The Star.

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