One final battle

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Saturday’s game between TSU and Jax State may be the last


Sports Editor

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Troy State is coming off its best offensive showing of the season in Saturday’s 44-12 win over Louisiana-Monroe and is playing host to instate-rival Jacksonville State this weekend.

The Gamecocks have lost three straight and four of their last five.

Sounds like perfect timing for the Trojans to take a sixth win of the year with just two games remaining on the 2001 schedule, doesn’t it?

But TSU head coach Larry Blakeney isn’t ready to predict anything.

"They (JSU) are scoring a lot of points," he said. "They’ve had a tough time of late. Basically, it will boil down to running the football and converting third downs. Whoever wins those battles will have the inside track to win the ball game."

Jacksonville State leads the all-time series with 33-27-2 advantage, but since play resumed in 1995 the Trojans have won six straight. Blakeney has never lost a game to the Gamecocks.

This could be the final meeting between the two schools for awhile. The Trojans will be a full-fledged member of Division 1-A next season and with an NCAA mandated six games required against 1-A competition, scheduling Jacksonville State just isn’t an option.

"It (the rivalry) has been good for college football in the state, in the Gulf South Conference, the Southland and for our fans," Blakeney said. "We haven’t had anything real negative to happen in the series and for the most part, the best team has won."

Blakeney added that the series may possibly resume at some point in time.

"Maybe we can look at playing again later or who knows? Maybe, Jax State will go 1-A," he said.

He also added a good-natured jibe at the Gamecocks.

"I can guarantee one way that it won’t be rescheduled and that’s if they come in here and beat us on Saturday," Blakeney said. "They’ll laugh and pack up and go."

As is the case with many instate rivalries, there’s plenty of connections between members of the Troy State coaching staff and the personnel at Jacksonville State.

Blakeney and JSU head coach Jack Crowe used to coach together at Auburn.

But Blakeney said the relationship goes back even further then that.

"Jack and I go back a long way," he said. "I interviewed for a job under him at Livingston when I was a coach at Vestavia Hills. Then, a few months later, I went to Auburn as an assistant coach. We have talked a good bit since he has been at JSU. We’re good friends and have a good professional relationship."

Defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt also knows Crowe from Auburn, as well as Clemson. Bolt coached tight ends under Crowe, who was Clemson’s offensive coordinator at the time.

Jacksonville State started off strong, winning their first four ball games, but with the late season losses now stand at 5-4.

Still, Bolt respects what Crowe has accomplished.

"They have always had a strong offense and we can’t take them lightly even though they have played poorly the last few weeks," he said. "I know Jack Crowe from our time spent at Clemson and Auburn. But I think you would rather beat your friends then your enemies on most days."

Kickoff is at 11:37 a.m. in Troy. The game will be televised by Comcast-Charter Sports SE.