Monday, October 22, 2007

Get over it

The fans who stuck around at the end of Saturday’s win over Tennessee Tech and paid attention or maybe saw the finish on CSS might have been the only ones who noticed, but it didn’t look like Tech coach Watson Brown was too happy with the Gamecocks after the game.

JSU quarterback Matt Hardin hooked up with Maurice Dupree on a 68-yard TD pass with 8:38 to play and the game well in hand, and Brown was noticeably upset about it.

The first thing Crowe did when he went to shake hands was tell Brown the post wasn’t called. Brown shook his head, kept Crowe in the embrace and whispered something to him, then pointed towards the scoreboard.

It was first-and-20 and the Gamecocks called a play that was designed to just move the ball. Was it the quarterback’s fault the safety wasn’t where he was supposed to be?

Hardin’s a fifth-year senior and trying to show he’s still a viable quarterback despite losing his starting job in Game 3. It was just like freshman quarterback Taurean Rhetta taking advantage of an opportunity to impress when he read and threw a 41-yard pass to Josh Moten late in a one-sided 2004 victory at UT-Martin that got Skyhawks athletic director Phil Dane all fired up.

"The point I made (to Brown) was we didn’t call a post route," Crowe said. "It was the standard route in that situation.

"Matt’s got great eyes. You don’t sneak up on Matt. He does it every day (in practice)."

It was the second week in a row Hardin came in and did something impressive. He guided the Gamecocks on a 99-yard touchdown drive in front of a national TV audience at Austin Peay Oct. 11.

"I thought Matt was in total control of all the strategy that we were trying to apply in the moment the ball was snapped," Crowe said of that drive. "It was a conversion drive and Matt was 100 percent. That was a Matt Hardin drive.

"Matt is a football person. He has committed himself that he’s a Gamecock and he’s doing everything he can. It’s no easy thing to do what Matt Hardin is doing. All it tells me is this guy’s going to be highly successful after football. He wants to be a coach; I’ll hire him."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tech QB 'questionable'

Not wanting to appear as if he were holding out on anybody, Tennessee Tech coach Watson Brown said Thurdsay quarterback Lee Sweeney could be available to play Saturday against Jacksonville State.

Sweeney was upgraded to "questionable" by the Tech training staff Thursday. That doesn't mean, however, he wll play.

Sweeney, last year's OVC Freshman of the Year, tore knee ligaments in the Murray State game Sept. 20 and Brown reiterated Tuesday he hoped to get the quarterback back for the Golden Eagles' Samford game.

Sweeney dressed out against Austin Peay, but did not play.

"We hope to get him back for Samford," Brown said. "I couldn't imagine the kid getting ready to play. He's on the field. He's doing some individual drill stuff. We're hoping to get him back for Samford."

The Golden Eagles have used four quarterbacks this season. Freshman Cass Barnes and junior receiver turned quarterback Steven Brown, the coach's son, are expected to play.

Sweeney had topped the 200-yard passing mark in two of the first three games this year, including 302 in the season opener at Eastern Illinois. He has passed for 2,987 yards in 15 games, placing him seventh in career yardage.

He was 11-of-27 for 117 yards in last year's 17-10 overtime loss to the Gamecocks.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

OVC basketball Media Day

Samford basketball coach Jimmy Tillette wandered over to Mike LaPlante's table during Wednesday's OVC Media Day and asked the Jacksonville State coach about the possibility of moving the teams' Jan. 7 game to another date.

Jan. 7 is the date of the BCS national championship football game, and -- discounting the fact he's a fan of potential game participant LSU -- Tillette recognizes how the conflict in a football crazy state like Alabama would impact the crowd in what typically is one of Jax State's biggest draws of the basketball season.

Since it's JSU's home game, it would be the Gamecocks' call. A move to Jan. 8 would give JSU home games on Jan. 8, 10 and 12. Samford would have the JSU road game on Jan. 8 and home games Jan. 10 and 12.

"I'd play it on the eighth, probably," Tillette said. "I can't believe our league puts games on the national championship date. I just can't believe our league does that. It doesn't make any sense."

LaPlante told Tillette he'd look at it, but not only their game is affected. The JSU and Samford women play the first part of that doubleheader at 5:30 p.m., with the men to follow approximately 30 minutes after its conclusion.

"I don't know," LaPlante said. "If they said we want to make sure we draw some fans, I'd think you'd just flip-flop the men's and women's game to have people do both. The championship game doesn't come on until like 8 o'clock. If we play at 5, everybody's gonna be where they gotta be for the 8 o'clock start. Then you say that's not fair to the women.

"I don't think we'll move the date. I think we'd probably adjust (the time). To me, I think it ends up being more of an administrative decision. Whatever makes the best sense."

YOUNG GUNS: The JSU women will be one of the youngest teams in the nation. The Gamecocks enter the season with a total of 38 starts among their players, making them the third youngest team in Division I behind Louisiana Tech (4) and Hofstra (22). Sophomore Jolie Efezokhae is the grizzled veteran, with 24 starts.

"You know, we're OK with that," JSU women's coach Becky Geyer said. "I'm really looking forward to getting started with these ladies because they're strengths are all very different. We have a lot of talent, young talent, but a lot of talent.

"We may be a team that starts different people throughout the year, some of it might depend on the matchups and what we feel like we need to run. In the bigger picture, I think it's not necessarily who starts, but who's in that rotation of 10, and that could change as well."

The Gamecocks were picked 11th in the preseason poll with 22 points, virtually unanimous for last.

"I'm OK with that, because we haven't proven yet what we have the ability to do after our first year here," Geyer said. "On the other hand, how many teams that are picked first really ever win? It's who's peaking at the end, so I don't put a lot of stock in that.

"But I do think the 22 points kind of fires you up a little bit. I know it'll fire our group up as well."

QUIPS AND QUIRKS: Among the best lines of the day from the women's segment ...

Murray State first-year coach Jody Adams on her background as point guard on Tennessee's 1991 national championship team: "They think they have Pat Summitt Jr. in town, but they don't."

Eastern Illinois coach Brady Sallee, offering some advice to Geyer on what to expect from a roster of so many young players: "When I started, my hairline looked like coach (Mike) Morris'," the follically challenged Sallee said, pointing to the well-coiffed Samford coach.

The best, however, was reserved for second-year Southeast Missouri coach Josh Ishee, whose team is overwhelmingly picked to win the women's title.

He alluded to Adams' notion that Murray was wearing 62-60 on its shirts, a motivator from last year's OVC Tournament final loss to SEMO. Then, in front of the room, the Redhawks' coach pulled off his red overshirt to reveal a white T-shirt with a bull's eye on the front.

"We know what's squarely on our chest," Ishee said.

From the men's side, program moderator Kyle Schwartz noted this was the sixth time in the last 30 years all 11 men's coaches in the league were the same as the year before. The first two coaches to speak made mention of keeping it that way, but Tillette nipped that.

"I don't have any plans on being back here next year," he said. He wasn't being mean. The Bulldogs go to the Southern Conference next year.

LaPlante joked Austin Peay coach Dave Loos was preparing to drop his trousers to reveal a bull's eye on his behind, but said Ishee stole his thunder. With all five starters back, defending regular-season champion Peay is the favorite in the men's race.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The madness begins

The JSU basketball team begins practice Friday when the volleyball team clears the floor in Pete Mathews Coliseum, but it won’t have Erik Adams at the start.

The 6-5 senior guard who gives the Gamecocks perhaps the strongest 3-4-5 combo in the OVC (with Amadou Mbodji and Dorien Brown), sprained his left ankle Friday and arrived for team pictures Monday with crutches and a wrap. He’s likely to be out for several weeks.

“If he’s gonna be injured, be injured now,” Gamecocks coach Mike LaPlante said. “You just want him to get back out there. He’ll be back.”

Adams averaged 6.8 points and 5.3 rebounds last year, but came on strong in the final 10 games of the season. His absence will give players like Erwin Staten, Oxford’s Jeremy Bynum, Nick Murphy a chance to show out.

“It’ll be a good opportunity for other guys to get more time, basically all of our 3s and 2s,” LaPlante said. “We could look to go big, but I think it’ll be more a perimeter thing”

LaPlante anticipates his team will be picked somewhere between sixth and eighth when the OVC announces the preseason poll at its media day Wednesday in Nashville.

The JSU women’s team opens its practice Friday at 7 p.m. in the Annex.

Second-year coach Becky Geyer has virtually an entire new roster and can’t wait to get started.

“We’re just looking forward to really getting a full practice in and not just getting started and your half-hour is over,” Geyer said, referring to the individual workouts that precede official practice. “It’s a puzzle and each player brings a different piece to the table. I think as a whole something very special is going to happen.”

Because of the influx of newcomers, Geyer estimated the conference coaches and publicists will have her Gamecocks 10th in their preseason poll.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Back to work

After an exasperating 27-24 come-from-behind victory Thursday night, the Jacksonville State football team was given Friday and Saturday off by head coach Jack Crowe. But the Gamecocks will be back to work today for another Thursday game, this time at Austin Peay.

Actually, the two-day respite wasn't planned, but it was necessary.

"I thought we made a lot of mistake in (Thursday's) game because we hadn't had recovery time (from the Murray State game)," Crowe said. "We traded recovery time for intense preparation and I think it got us what we got in the fourth quarter (against UT-Martin).

"But I think we've gotta go back and get on a schedule. I think we'd still be recovering from two weeks back-to-back (so) I decided give them two days instead one."

This week's game with Austin Peay, set for ESPN-U television, will be the Gamecocks' first against the Governors since 1979. It'll be their first game at Peay since 1962 -- the last game in a 16-year run.

Even though it's been a while, the Gamecocks know the way. And no jokes about the last train to Clarksville, please.

"We drove past it going to Murray," Crowe said.

JSU leads the series 8-6-3.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Good day to play

Count Jax State coach Jack Crowe as a big fan of the Thursday night game.
The Gamecocks play their next two games on the midweek night. The reason they’re playing Thursday this week is to avoid the conflicts and logistical problems created by Talladega race week, but it wouldn’t bother Crowe at all if the OVC considered going that way as the norm.
He’s already said he’d rather play on a Thursday than go on the road during race week.
“I don’t think there’s a bad in this,” Crowe said. “The bad was the short preparation.
“I think there’s a reason to talk about playing in our league on Thursdays. I think it runs into some issues when you’re trying to play up and putting that in the schedule. Tennessee Tech has done it and I think it’s probably worked pretty well for them.
“I’d like for somebody to give some consideration to what the value is. I could see the argument being for the value of being a Thursday night league. Some people would probably take exception to it --- there’s a down to everything --- but we play good on Thursday night. We’ve not ever made an issue out of it. We’re not going to make an issue with this short preparation week. It’s football, play.”
Would it work in the OVC? Would it work in Alabama, where the two SEC schools dominate the conversation and TV viewing habits? Drop a line with your thoughts?