MONTGOMERY—The old adage we have to take 'em one game at a time, is never more true than it is for the Alabama State University football team.
The Hornets (5-3/4-3 SWAC) enter the game against Jackson State (6-2/4-2) only one game behind the Tigers in the Eastern Division standings. If ASU can win their next two SWAC games, they will put themselves in a great position to win the Eastern Division and into the SWAC Championship game.
ASU first has to worry about the Tigers and the Hornets defense will have its work cut out and will need to have their best game of the season.
JSU will bring a load of offensive fire power into Cramton Bowl Saturday night with quarterback Casey Therriault leading the way. He has thrown for 2,636 yards and 22 touchdowns and has only thrown five interceptions in his 344 passing attempts.
He has spread his completions out to 12 different receivers, but Marcellos Wilder leads the team with 44 receptions for 536 yards and six scores. Anthony Mayes has 33 receptions for 568 yards and five scores while Renty Rollins has 28 catches for 301 yards and another five scores.
"Casey Therriault is a pin-point passer," head coach Reggie Barlow said. "He does a great job of getting his receivers into the right positions and gets their offense into the right calls."
JSU leads the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) in scoring offense (32.0 ppg), total offense (408.8 ypg), passing offense (330.2 ypg) and first downs (21.9 pg).
Now looking at the other side of the coin, the ASU defense has gelled into one of the best defenses in the SWAC. They actually lead the SWAC in scoring defense only allowing 18 points per game. The Hornets defense is third in the SWAC in total defense only allowing 309.9 yards per game and second in pass defense only allowing 159.1 yards per game.
ASU's pass defense will be tested by JSU but has only allowed five touchdown passes all season while interception 14. Kejuan Riley and Marcus Solomon lead ASU and are tied for second in the SWAC with four interceptions. Donovan Masline has three and Jacques Rickerson has two.
Demarques Taylor has played well all season and continues to lead ASU in stops with 47 and has six tackles for lost yardage and two sacks.
One area that has helped ASU's defense is their ability to get to the quarterback. They are second in the league with 23 sacks and have 59 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Jimmy Daniels is tied for third in the conference with five sacks and is tied for first with 14 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Kynjee Cotton is not too far behind with four sacks and 10 stops in the backfield.
"Our defense may be playing as well right now as it has been since I have been here," Barlow said. "They have been very consistent and had only had one bad game this season. Coach Thornton and his staff have done a great job of getting those guys ready and going into games with good game plans. This week will be the biggest challenge we have faced since JSU has a really good quarterback, good receivers and running backs and a good offensive scheme."
While ASU's offense has struggled at times during the season, they have still managed to score over 22 points per game. Devin Dominguez has thrown for 1,037 yards and 12 touchdowns and Andrew Pitts has rushed for 406 yards and four scores while averaging 5.6 yards per carry.
ASU's receivers are not too bad either. Nick Andrews has 33 receptions for 414 yards and five scores while T.C. McWilliams has 32 catches for 506 yards and five scores.
The Hornets know they will need to rush the ball against JSU, and will look to build on the 212 yards rushing performance in last week's win over Alabama A&M.
"We have to keep the ball away from them," Barlow said. "That means we will need to run the ball, which is good if we are able to run the ball like we did last week."
INFORMATION SOURCE: Alabama State University Athletic Departm