After the road victory over Troy nine days ago, South Alabama coach Joey Jones talked about how the Trojans had the game with USA “circled our name on their schedule and they were really out to get us.”
Perhaps it was playing a new trophy that got Troy so riled up but maybe it was suddenly falling behind the new program from Mobile that provided a spark.
Without saying so much, you have a feeling the Jaguars (3-2, 1-0) have their game with Arkansas State (2-3, 1-0) circled.
“They are a very good, talented, well-coached football team,’’ said Jones, who is 0-3 vs. the Red Wolves. “We realize what kind of program they have. We want to be at that level; we want to get there.
“We can learn a lot about how to do that. We have a great challenge ahead of us and we are looking for to it.”
A year ago the Jaguars came into Jonesboro and were drilled 45-10. That was after losing 17-16 in Mobile in the 2013 season, the game that turned the Red Wolves’ season around and led to a third-straight Sun Belt title.
Last season in Jonesboro was a game where the Jaguars, who eventually wound up bowl eligible and played in the first Camellia Bowl upstate in Montgomery, came in short-handed.
“Last year’s game we had nine starters out,’’ said Jones. “Not as an excuse; they played better than us.
“It was probably the worst game we played, definitely was last year, the whole year. This year I think we are a much better football team.”
His first team lost in Jonesboro 36-29.
You get the feeling Jones feels like he is playing another team from Alabama. The Red Wolves’ team that have been so strong in the SBC the last four seasons was built on Alabama kids.
“They have been doing well for the last few years. They have playing for a conference championship every year. They’ve done a good job recruiting.”
The Red Wolves’ Alabama numbers are down to 15 this season. But a recent article by the Montgomery Advertiser said there were 406 players from Alabama on NCAA FBS rosters. A-State ranked third behind Southern Mississippi and Mississippi State, both schools within an hour of the Alabama border. There are around 50 in state kids on the South Alabama roster.
Aside from defeating a team they have been look up at in the Sun Belt standing the last three years Tuesday’s game carries a big reward of having it on ESPN2. It is a chance to show the nation just how far the program has advanced against a team that has a good reputation of late.
And it might help keep some on the good Alabama kids at home.