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4 October 2007
Jax State vs. Tenn.-Martin - Revenge Game

By Al Muskewitz
Star Sports Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

Revenge: JSU Out to Undo 2006 Loss

A JSU player sits in dejection after the Gamecocks lost 24-14 at UT-Martin in 2006. The Gamecocks have a short week to prepare for the Skyhawks and get their revenge. Photo: Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star

JACKSONVILLE The actual word never passed through Jacksonville State coach Jack Crowe's lips once during his weekly pow-wow with the press Monday, but you didn't have to listen real hard to know it was there.

If there's one emotion that courses through the Gamecocks' preparation for Thursday night's game with Tennessee Martin, it's revenge.

The Skyhawks enjoyed a season for their ages last in 2006, sharing the Ohio Valley Conference championship, and left JSU among the wreckage in their wake.

Crowe called it a "sickening" loss. It couldn't have been from dinner; the Gamecocks ran out of food in their pre-game meal. Whatever the reason, it was something the Gamecocks have had to live with for a year.

"We're playing a team that we've still got emotional scars from," Crowe said. "We're not hiding the fact, misrepresenting it by saying this is just another game, we've got emotional scars from something that very much affected us last year."

Crowe might not have used the "R" word, but the JSU players, who turned their attention to the Skyhawks the minute the gun sounded in Saturday's 40-24 victory at Murray State, were more than willing to attach that emotion to the game.

"I think it's a revenge game," senior nose guard John Scott said. "We went up there and they just beat us; they point blank beat us last year. I'm not the kind of guy who wants to send a message out to other teams or anything like that, but to me, personally, it's a revenge game."

"We're ready to play definitely a revenge game," said his linemate Brandt Thomas. "We're gonna come out with that look in our eye."

And typically it's been an evil eye. Since joining the OVC in 2003, the Gamecocks have lost consecutive games to a league opponent only once. Eastern Illinois has taken them down each of the past two years, both in games that carried conference title implications. The only other team they've failed to get payback against over the same period is Furman, which has beaten then three consecutive times.

Losing to a team that had long been the conference doormat and easy pickins for the Gamecocks was bad enough, but the way it happened made them feel even worse.

Martin had only about 40 more yards of offense in the game, but ran for 169 yards, and its third-ranked defense held the Gamecocks to only 91 just one week after rushing for 303 against Southeast Missouri.

The crushing blow came early in the fourth quarter right after JSU pulled to within 17-14 when Matt Hardin was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-1 from the Gamecocks' 40. Given that the Gamecocks went out and signed JUCO quarterback Cedric Johnson in the winter, it was probably the play that started the end of Hardin as the starter.

"It changed the way we looked at ourselves offensively," Crowe said.

Crowe said the Gamecocks made the most venal of sins in athletics that week they took the Skyhawks lightly. It's something they promise never to do again even if Martin does come into Paul Snow Stadium this week 0-5 (0-2 in the OVC).

After losing their first three games by a combined score of 134-91, the Skyhawks dropped two low-scoring OVC games by three points each, and coach Jason Simpson is expected to make some changes this week to restart the offense.

The Gamecocks (2-3, 1-1), meanwhile, will be looking to re-establish a rhythm in their own offense.

"We gave a lot of things away (last year)," Crowe said. "They were better than we thought they were. We went in there not respecting them enough. We did not have a high enough regard for who we were playing against and then we give them stuff."

The only thing the Gamecocks want to give the Skyhawks now is a hard time.

"They took our style of football, mimicked our style of football, and tried to run the ball," receiver Taurean Rhetta said. "I figure it's a revenge game because we've got to get our swagger back in the OVC."

Jax State vs. Tenn.-Martin
Today, 6 p.m., CSS, FM 91.9, FM 92.7

About Al Muskewitz

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

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