Game 2 preview: Alabama State Hornets
In 2010, the Hornets won the SWAC East Division before falling to West champions Texas Southern, 11-6. They did it with solid special teams and one of the best defenses in FCS, allowing 204.9 yards per game. Understandably, their theme for 2011 is “Unfinished Business”.
Team previews are always hard early in the week, when we don’t necessarily have a sense of where each team stands. Does a big win mean the winner is good, the opponent is bad, or a little of both? Alabama State won their opening game last week with the same 32-point margin EMU managed — in fact the score was the same: 41-9. The difference was that Alabama State won a road conference game, and while the Eagles won on the ground, the Hornets took to the air. In his debut with the Hornets, quarterback Greg Jenkins connected on 19 of 27 passes for 188 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions, and carried the ball 16 times for 56 yards, in about three quarters of play. All three touchdown passes went to Nick Andrews. Meanwhile, the Alabama State defense snagged two interceptions and five (FIVE!) fumble recoveries.
Alabama State has four players on the pre-season All-SWAC first team: two each from the offense and defense. #70 OL Terren Jones is out with a knee injury until mid-month. #8 WR Nick Andrews is likely to end this year as Alabama State’s career receptions and receiving touchdowns leader, and has an outside chance at becoming the receiving yards leader also. #59 defensive tackle Kynjee Cotton had 51 tackles (11 for a loss) and 5 sacks last year. #26 FS Kejuan Riley had 63 tackles, two fumble recoveries, and seven interceptions last year, for which he was named a second-team FCS All-American. Also of note are #48 WR T.C. McWilliams (pre-season All-SWAC second team) and quarterback Greg Jenkins, who transferred from Troy University.
Fortunately for EMU, Alabama State’s offensive strength plays into what I think is an EMU strength — pass defense — while EMU’s rushers will face a fairly weak run defense. Last week, in their 41-9 route of Mississippi Valley State, the Hornets gained just 3.1 yards per carry on 40 carries, while allowing 5.0 yards per carry. EMU, by comparison, gained 7.6 yards per carry while allowing 3.2.
As they did last week, EMU’s game plan will be to run, run, run the ball, and then run some more. Sherrer, Greene, and Gillett all looked good carrying the ball on Sunday, and there should be plenty of carries to go around again this week. I think it’s highly likely that two of the three primary ball carriers will again break 100 yards. Alabama State, on the other hand, will do a lot of passing, in the hopes of putting their skill players in a position to succeed one-on-one. I think EMU’s secondary will be up to the task. I’m seeing EMU favored with point spreads from about 13 to 16, and I think that’s not too far off. EMU wins, 34-17, or possibly 34-10 if Gillett doesn’t throw an interception.