Herald Citizen Weighs in on JSU v. T. Tech

JSU aims to play spoiler
Thomas Corhern
Herald-Citizen Assistant Sports Editor
Tuesday, Nov 10, 2009
Jacksonville State quarterback Ryan Perrilloux is tackled by Tennessee Tech defensive back Maurice Smith during last year’s game against the Gamecocks. Contributed Photo/Michael Vigeant
COOKEVILLE — One team in Saturday’s tilt between Jacksonville State and Tennessee Tech is looking for a championship. The other is looking to play spoiler. Guess which one the Golden Eagles fall under.

Tech (5-4, 4-2 Ohio Valley Conference) enters the contest just one game back in the standings behind Eastern Illinois. At 5-1 and with a tiebreaker against the Golden Eagles, Tech would have to win out and the Panthers would have to lose against UT Martin and Tennessee State to give the Golden Eagles sole possession of their first OVC title since 1975.

But a tie is certainly not out of the question and the Golden Eagles are going to do their best to make sure they can claim their share. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks are trying to make a statement after being held out of championship contention, penalized for missing the NCAA’s minimum score for the third straight year on their Annual Progress Report. With a 6-3 overall record, 4-1 in the OVC, the Gamecocks would be tied for first place in the league.

Either way, JSU is not going to be an easy win by any stretch of the imagination. Early on this season, the Gamecocks were steamrolling their competition, until JSU ran afoul of Eastern Illinois, who defeated the Gamecocks 28-20. Since then, the games haven’t been as big of blowouts, but the Gamecocks are still coming up with big wins.

“I don’t really think these guys have really lost a step,” said Tech coach Watson Brown. “They’re still winning. Their offense is still moving the ball and leading just about every category. Their defense isn’t allowing a lot of points. Honestly, they have the best offense in the league and they have the best defense in the league.”

Of course, it gets a lot easier when your defense is allowing an average of 11 points per game. In their league games, only Eastern Illinois and Austin Peay have managed to score in double digits.

“Nobody is scoring on these guys,” Brown said. “If you take away the returned kicks that Austin Peay and Eastern Illinois had, they’re really just allowing seven points. If we’re going to win, we have to find ways to put points on the board. We need at least 20, but they’re going to make us work for every point we get.”

A tough task indeed as the Gamecocks’ defense has not allowed a touchdown in its last nine quarters — 154 minutes and 35 seconds, as a matter of fact. The Panthers were the last team to find the end zone back on Oct. 24.

Offensively, former LSU quarterback-turned-Gamecock Ryan Perrilloux is the cornerstone of the team, and he has been a one-man wrecking crew in the league.

“He’s the best offensive player in this conference,” Brown said. “It all starts with him. He’s made big plays all season and the challenge is going to be on us to find ways to stop him.”

Gamecocks coach Jack Crowe has a lot of respect for the up-and-coming Tech program and knows Saturday’s game is going to mean a lot to the Golden Eagles.

“We are challenged coming into this week’s game against Tech,” Crowe said during his weekly press conference on Monday. “This is a team that is playing for at least a tie for the championship. They’ve been a very efficient football team. As you look at them statistically, you don’t see a strength and weakness category. They are right there in everything in a median area. They are really playing good football. … They are where they need to be, when they are supposed to be there on offense and defense, and they are making the plays. They are a very sound team, which is a sign of good coaching.”

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