Friday, October 31, 2008

Tolbert out

The Jax State defense really missed defensive end Duane Tolbert in the UT-Martin game it looks as if the Gamecocks won't have him again Saturday against Austin Peay.

Tolbert, a senior from Jacksonville who hurt his knee in the Murray State game, is among three players listed out for the game. Linebacker Antonio Bonner is listed out with an ankle injury and running back Tremayne Coger will miss another game with his bad knee.

The Gamecocks gave up a season-high 493 yards against the Skyhawks.

"We really missed Duane Tolbert," JSU coach Jack Crowe said. "I think sometimes you've got to take somebody out of the mix to know what their effect is ... We haven't seen our defensive line play as good without Duane Tolbert as they do with Duane Tolbert.

"When you give up that many rushing yards (218), people can throw the ball while you're trying to defend the run and they're gonna get you. That tight end down the middle was (the result of) the linebacker playing the run. We violated one of our first and most important principles defensively in that game. The quarterback has you when you can't put any pressure on him, and that's what they had us in right there."

'Best tenth place ever"

The JSU basketball team has been practicing for a couple weeks now and during that time new coach James Green has discovered something about his players.

“I like our guys, I like this group of guys,” he said. “I think they’re good guys.”

When’s the last time you heard a coach say publicly he didn’t like his team, outside of some transparent mind game meant to motivate it?

Green said he didn’t like his first Southern Miss team particularly much, but he doesn’t have that feeling with his first JSU group.

“That’s what I found at this point that I didn’t at the other places,” Green said. “There were guys who didn’t belong. I can’t say that we have a guy who doesn’t belong in this program, either from the university standpoint or my coaching standpoint, that I can say that guy’s not gonna make it with me. I can’t say that.

“Where I can see in those other places when you walk in the locker room the guy lies to you about whether he was in class; I can tell you real quick that guy’s not gonna make it with me. Or he’s got this issue, that issue. I haven‘t had that. They have as quickly tried to buy in at this point as any group I’ve ever been around.”

Of course, he has the advantage of being the one to show potential trouble the door and there have been times at practice this year when he’s had to remind a player or two “what we’re going to be about,” but he reports no major attitude issues.

“I think they’ve learned about the habits we want to have and that’s helped us with the overall approach,” Green said. “Even having those guys in summer school has given them an understanding of what we’re about, and that’s half the battle. Nobody has fought against what we’re about.”

The OVC coaches and publicists picked the Gamecocks last in their preseason poll, but there’s a sentiment they will be better than that.

Green is wise enough not to promise a particular number of wins and said it will probably take through the first tour of the league to determine what it’ll take for the Gamecocks to succeed in the league, but he does promise one thing:

“If we are tenth, we’re going to be the best tenth place (team) that’s ever come out of this league,“ he said. “I will say that, because we’re going to be scratching and clawing.“

The Gamecock Nation will get to see just how far Green and his team has progressed Wednesday night at Pete Mathews Coliseum in their first exhibition against West Georgia.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

No goals mean no playoffs for soccer team

A late-season power outage kept the Jacksonville State soccer team out of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament.

The Gamecocks' season ended Sunday with a 2-0 loss to Eastern Kentucky. Both goals came in the second half.

JSU finished the season 5-10-3 overall, 2-5-1 in the OVC with a four-game OVC losing streak and a five-game overall slide. The four OVC losses were all by shutout and came to four teams that made the tournament field.

The Gamecocks scored only nine goals in their nine matches after a 12-0 rout of Alabama State. They went 2-6-1 in those matches.

They needed Sunday's game in the worst way. They entered the day tied with Eastern Illinois for the final spot in the tournament -- and had the head-to-head tiebreaker -- but EIU won its match to bump the Gamecocks.

Senior keeper Kate Kelly made eight saves in the match and finished her career second on the JSU all-time saves list (270). Kelly and fellow seniors Elsa Kurlychek and Kristi Pereira were recognized in pregame ceremonies.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Packing heat

The JSU baseball team has been going through its fall practice and it appears junior pitcher Ben Tootle hasn't missed a beat from his summer experience in the Cape Cod League.

Tootle regularly threw in the high 90s as a reliever on the Cape, occassionally topping 100, and shows no signs of slowing down with the Gamecocks. Because of that velocity and control, Tootle is considered one of the top pro prospects in the country this spring.

Asked how fast the Oxford product was throwing this fall, one insider said, "As hard as you can get in two digits on the gun."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hoops: Reinhardt an exhibition

Jacksonville State has designated its Dec. 13 basketball game with Reinhardt as an exhibition.

It gives the Gamecocks two non-counting games among their four non-Division I opponents, and brings them in compliance with the OVC's new basketball enrichment policy that allows only two games against non-Division I teams in the regular season.

The Gamecocks' home opener is against Division II West Alabama and they have a game with NAIA Berry College Dec. 30. They play a preseason exhibition against Division II West Georgia Nov. 5.

Berry and Reinhardt are both counting their JSU games as exhibitions that won't count on their records.

There are no immediate plans to find a replacement counting game for Reinhardt – "We’re not going to Washington State," JSU coach James Green joked -- but Green said he would take a game if it fit into a good date on the schedule or helped the program financially or otherwise.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Making it work

The Gamecocks may have had only two days to prepare for their big game at Tennessee-Martin Thursday night, but they were determined to get in as much work as possible.

The Skyhawks have had a full week to prepare, having played their last game last Thursday night. The Gamecocks are coming off a 31-21 win over Murray State Saturday.

Normally, JSU would have plenty of time to recover and game plan. Not this week, thanks to ESPNU.

But that's not stopping the Gamecocks from trying get a full week of practice in.

They practiced Sunday night. They practiced Monday night. They're going to practice Tuesday, then leave for Martin in the evening.

They'll stop in Nashville overnight, then practice Wednesday -- in an undisclosed location with an artificial turf surface -- before continuing on to Martin.

"We're going to get our fourth practice in," JSU coach Jack Crowe promised. "We're going to have four practices."

As important as the game is to both teams, every bit helps.

Even if it comes at an accelerated rate.

"It's just a lot faster, everything, instead of being spread out," tackle Curt Porter said. "This week, it's really fast. Everything's back to back to back.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Not just a Face In the Crowd

JSU volleyball player Brittney Whitten is featured in this week's Sports Illustrated for becoming only the second player in OVC history to win Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week in the same week. She did it the week of Sept. 22. Whitten is featured in the Faces in the Crowd section.

The Gamecocks are 6-14 overall, 2-7 in the OVC, and fighting for their playoff lives. They have lost four in a row in the league and are currently tied for eighth with Eastern Kentucky, two games out of the sixth and final playoff spot, with nine to play. They play at second place Tennessee Tech Saturday.

The Gamecocks have won the OVC regular season the last two years and gone to the NCAA Tournament two of the last three years.

Monday, October 13, 2008

It's basketball season

It won't be Midnight Madness, but both Jacksonville State basketball teams open practice Friday night.

JSU officials said the men's team will practice in the Annex at 7 p.m., while the women's team will go in Pete Mathews Coliseum at the same time. There will be no formal tip-off celebrations at either.

Then, to drum up interest off Saturday's Homecoming festivities, the men's team will hold an open practice at 11:30 a.m. in the Coliseum.

The JSU men, under the direction of new coach James Green, were picked a distant 10th in the Ohio Valley Conference preseason poll. The JSU women's team, coached by Becky Geyer, was picked fifth in its OVC preseason poll.