Southeast Missouri State football team visits perennial OVC power Jacksonville St.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Southeast Missouri State can count on seeing an angry Jacksonville State football team Saturday.

The Gamecocks no doubt are reeling after being dealt one of their worst Ohio Valley Conference losses since they joined the league in 2003.

JSU (1-2, 0-1 OVC) will be looking to make amends when they host Southeast (2-2, 1-0) at 3 p.m. in Jacksonville, Ala.

"We had a very ... probably the most lopsided loss we've had in the conference ever," JSU coach Jack Crowe said about Saturday's 51-21 rout at Eastern Kentucky that featured the Gamecocks' largest halftime deficit (26 points) in an OVC game. "Credit goes to EKU. They were ready to play all hands. They dominated us."

But Crowe knows it's way too early for JSU, still ranked 24th nationally, to panic. The Gamecocks, after all, have the best conference record (54-18) of any OVC team since they joined the league.

The Gamecocks have won three OVC titles, including last year when they shared the crown with Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee Tech.

"We have certainly time and room for growth," Crowe said. "We may know better who we are now. [We] tried to not over-analyze to be honest with you. Even though we played poorly, let's not forget that we do know how to play well."

Southeast coach Tony Samuel warns people not to get caught up with thinking that the Gamecocks are anything but the perennial OVC powers they have established themselves to be. And that includes statistically, which has JSU ranked 106th or worse in the Football Championship Subdivision in all five major defensive categories.

The Gamecocks are 121st -- last -- in pass efficiency defense, 117th in total defense (514.7 yards per game) and 109th against the run (244 yards per game). They are allowing 41.3 points per game.

Samuel noted the Gamecocks have played three strong opponents in Football Bowl Subdivision member Arkansas, Chattanooga and Eastern Kentucky. JSU beat Chattanooga 27-24 on a field goal in the closing seconds.

"They're a very good football team," Samuel said. "You don't want to get too caught up in numbers. They played three very good teams."

JSU hurt itself with four turnovers at Eastern Kentucky -- the Colonels had no turnovers -- to help the OVC preseason favorite rout the squad picked to finish second.

"That can flip a game," Samuel said about the turnovers.

The Gamecocks allowed Eastern Kentucky to gain 558 yards of offense, including 327 yards rushing as Matt Denham piled up 218 yards.

Crowe sees Southeast as similar offensively to Eastern Kentucky, which has him concerned.

"SEMO is a great challenge for us. They actually will bring a similar style to what we played last week," Crowe said. "They're going to be physical on the line of scrimmage."

The OVC is loaded with talented, experienced quarterbacks, and JSU has two in senior Marques Ivory and junior Coty Blanchard.

Ivory had a big season in 2010, when he passed for more than 2,200 yards. He suffered a season-ending injury in the 2011 opener, and Blanchard took over after Ivory went down.

Ivory is back as the starter although Blanchard, more of a running threat than Ivory, also plays. Ivory has completed 57.5 percent (42 of 73) of his passes for 497 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. He threw the winning touchdown pass in the closing seconds as JSU beat Southeast 29-27 during the Redhawks' OVC championship season in 2010.

"Two different styles. Two very athletic kids. Both are very experienced," Samuel said.

JSU has a preseason All-American running back in senior Washaun Ealey, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2011 after transferring from Georgia. He has only 56 yards this year and has missed one game due to a team suspension.

Sophomore DaMarcus James is JSU's top rusher with 229 yards. He is averaging 6.5 yards per carry.

Senior wide receiver Alan Bonner has caught 15 passes for a 14.2-yard average and is averaging 13.7 yards per punt return.

"They've got very good running backs and receivers. Their offensive line is a very good group," Samuel said.

Southeast's past two games with JSU have gone to the wire. The Gamecocks won both, including 22-21 last year in Cape Girardeau as they rallied from a 21-9 halftime deficit.

The Redhawks are 1-8 against JSU since the Gamecocks joined the OVC.

"We've had some crazy games in this league in general," said Samuel, whose squad opened OVC play with Saturday's wild 41-38 double-overtime home win over Tennessee Tech. "That's the way this conference is."

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