TSU will try and earn respect in Lincoln

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 12, 2001

Sports Editor

TSU Athletic Director Johnny Williams managed to assemble one of the toughest schedules around for Troy State to start their initial forays into Division 1-A football.

Now it’s head coach Larry Blakeney’s job to play out the 2001 season, while finding a way to be competitive against the likes of Nebraska, Miami, Mississippi State and Maryland, as well as lower tier 1-A teams like Louisiana-Monroe and Middle Tennessee State.

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The high profile games, such as the one against Nebraska, are the Trojans’ money makers; contests that must be scheduled in order to build up the program. For the average college football fan those four games also adds up to four losses on the Trojans’ schedule.

"We know we’re being pretty aggressive with our schedule," said Blakeney. "We do have five home games which is good. In my opinion scheduling is the most difficult thing, task wise, to do as far as the qualifications go for Division 1-A. We’ve got to be able to schedule six 1-A games starting next year and every year after that."

With just 19 more days separating the Trojans from a meeting with the No. 4 Cornhuskers, Blakeney and his assistant coaches are still "searching for answers."

"I’m not looking through any rose-colored glasses. I’m trying to find a way, along with this staff, for us to compete against them (Nebraska)," he said. "I do know we’re going to get to play the same 60 minutes that they do. Of course, a win shocks the world. Credibility doesn’t hurt you. But I think, even if you lose to a Nebraska, you can have some small victories. At the least, we’re looking for some respectability."

For the Trojans to even have chance in Lincoln, Blakeney said the defense must be able to "physically tackle" Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch and the Cornhuskers’ running backs. Crouch, a senior and preseason Heisman Trophy candidate, is the top rushing quarterback in Nebraska history, totalling 2,319 yards in his four-year career.

"If we can’t tackle then we’ve got problems," said Blakeney. "They (Nebraska) do a great job of getting blockers on people, but we have got to have tacklers."

Blakeney is looking at the games with Middle Tennessee (Sept. 8) and Louisiana-Monroe (Nov. 10), as critical to the Trojans’ success in 1-A.

"Louisiana-Monroe and Middle Tennessee are two games we have to win order to be competitive in 1-A, simply because we recruit against them on all fronts," Blakeney said. "We’re in a good geographical location to recruit, four, five and six states where there are a number of great high school football players. Right now, the answer to everything is players."

Troy State already has a good recruiting base with the junior colleges in Mississippi and Blakeney said he and his staff plan to make a strong push toward getting Juco players from Texas, Kansas and California.

"The junior colleges in Mississippi are already accessible. The ones in California, Texas and Kansas we plan on making accessible," he said.

In the third game of the season, the Trojans square-off against what Blakeney calls the "Division 1-A giant killers." TSU will play host to Appalachian State on Sept. 15 for the first home game of the year. The Mountaineers knocked the Trojans out of the first round of the Division 1-AA playoffs last season, taking a 33-30 win at Memorial Stadium.

TSU had beaten App State 34-30 in Boone, NC earlier in the season.

"Appalachian State has a quality football program and can beat anybody, anywhere," Blakeney said. "They’ve beaten Wake Forest every time they’ve played them."