College Sports Journal
MONTGOMERY, AL. — On the Alabama State football website, you can easily find a graphic that says “One Team, One Dream, Unfinished Business.”
For the Hornets, the “unfinished business” portion has additional meaning as well.
In this 98th meeting between the Hornets and Division II Tuskegee in the Turkey Day Classic at 3 p.m., the 7-3 Hornets have some unfinished business to close out their season — beat the Golden Lions, who have found a way to beat Alabama State the last two years and in six of their last seven Thanksgiving Day clashes.
On paper, Alabama State would seem to have an edge against 4-5 Tuskegee, which has only won consecutive games once all year.
But the Golden Lions boast an NFL prospect at cornerback, Kenneth Baker, and folks who have played in rivalry games like this know that you can throw out the records in games like this.
Nobody knows that better than Hornet coach Reggie Barlow.
“They’re not where they’ve been from a record standpoint, but I’ve been a part of this game as a player and as a coach, and the biggest thing is matching their intensity,” Barlow told the Montgomery Advertiser. “They always seem to play faster than we do.”
A good thing for the Hornets, who will be playing at the Cramton Bowl in front of 20,000 excited spectators and will see their game broadcast nationally on ESPNU, is the fact that quarterback Greg Jenkins, who had been nursing injuries the last two weeks, should be closer to 100% after 10 days off in between games.
“We should have enough time to get him healthy,” Barlow said. “I’ve seen him moving better (in the last two games), but when he’s about to have impact, he doesn’t have a quick move to make them miss. He’s pulling up. I can only imagine the pain he’s feeling out there.”
The Hornets rank near the bottom of FCS in rushing (103rd) with an average of 97 yards per game and are 96th in total offense (319 yards).
But ASU is almost as strong defensively as it is weak on offense. The Hornets third in pass efficiency defense and turnover margin and sixth in scoring defense (17.1 points per game allowed).
Kejuan Riley is second in the NCAA in interceptions with eight and Saeed Lee is tied for sixth with five.
Nicholas Andrews ranks among the top 10 receivers in FCS with 72 catches for 1,043 yards and nine TDs to give Jenkins a consistent target.
Tuskegee has also struggled on offense, averaging just 17.6 points per game and 215 yards, with an attack that has been anemic both in rushing and passing.
But the Golden Lions are 13th in total defense (289 yards) and 14th in scoring defense (18.2).