The Hornets (6-2 overall, 6-1 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference) are coming off a disappointing 20-19 loss to archrival Alabama A&M in the 70th Magic City Classic as Alabama State lost for the first time this season in SWAC play and suffered its second loss of the season. The Hornets made a pair of first-quarter turnovers (three in all) and had a pair of kicks blocked in the game.
“We started the game with an interception and a fumble that put our defense in a bad situation,” Barlow said. “They (Alabama A&M) were able to capitalize on it and we were playing catch up from that point on. In the second half, we came out and did some positive things but we had (kicks) blocked, and we can’t have that. We have a weapon in Bobby Wenzig and we allowed points to get out of there. I’m confident he would have made them, but it didn’t happen. We just happened to pick the biggest game and the biggest stage to have our worst game special-teams wise.”
Alabama A&M made key gains in the running game when it needed to, controlling the ball for more than 38 minutes of possession time, including more than 22 minutes in the second half. Alabama State scored touchdowns on two of its four possessions after halftime.
“Defensively, not being able to stop the run is discouraging,” Barlow said. “We knew that’s what they were going to do, and we just have to figure that out. Maybe we need to go back to the drawing board on some of things we are doing defensively and get it settled…I have a lot of confidence in (Defensive Coordinator Cedric) Thornton and his thought process when it comes to preparing our defense. We know our strength is our secondary and people are not going to throw it around on us. We just have to get our guys to understand our fits and get off blocks.”
Lost in the emotion of the difficult loss is the fact the Hornets allowed just three points in the final 42+ minutes of the game, nearly erased a 17-point deficit, and are still in the running for the SWAC Championship. Alabama State will play its final road game of the season this week at Arkansas-Pine Bluff (4-4, 3-3), which is coming off a 27-20 loss to Grambling State.
“I still love our team,” Barlow said. “I think we have a good team and good players and we’re excited about them. God is good. We get an opportunity to go and play against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. It’s their homecoming. We have a lot of respect for all the teams in the SWAC and definitely Coach (Monte) Coleman’s team. It will be an exciting game to go up there and play a good, solid team. Last year we played them and it went down to the wire (a 38-31 ASU win) and I expect it to be the same-type game in Pine Bluff this weekend.”
Due to a nagging hip injury, QB Greg Jenkins was limited to just two series in the game.
“Greg has been hampered really since the Eastern Michigan game with a hip issue,” Barlow said. “He’s been a soldier, he’s fought through it and he’s practiced through it… He’s been hobbled a bit through the bye week. (But) he’s our guy. He can be great when he’s healthy. We wanted to give him an opportunity to get out there and play, but he wasn’t right. We didn’t want to leave him out there if we didn’t think he was going to be mentally able to handle the pressure that was going to be brought on by Alabama A&M. So we decided to take him out.”
Devin Dominguez quarterbacked the Hornets during the remainder of the game, rushing for a pair of third-quarter touchdowns, including a 59-yard scoring dash. As Barlow has alluded to at different times during the season, having two quarterbacks to turn to is significant.
“He’s a warrior,” Barlow said. “I love watching that guy play football. He came in and did a good job for us…We’ve always had that confidence in Dominguez. It’s a good place to be when you know you can lose a guy like Jenkins, but you still have a guy like Dominguez that you can say, ‘You know what? Let’s roll.’ He’s a smart guy, he studies the game, and he knows the game. Some of the feedback he was giving us in this game was mind-boggling, as he was able to communicate so much stuff and it’s a good feeling to have a guy like him. Greg won the job. He gives us the opportunity to do a lot of things. But if he’s not healthy then we’ll have to go with Dominguez.”
POLL POSITIONS: The loss dropped Alabama State out of the top ranking in several Black College Football Polls and completely out of the Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25.
The Hornets are now ranked fourth in the HSRN.com Poll, fifth in the Boxtorow.com Media Poll, and sixth in the Sheridan Broadcasting Network Poll.
- Dominguez’ 59-yard touchdown run was the longest of his career and the longest rushing play of the season for Alabama State.
- WR Nick Andrews had the fifth 100-yard receiving game of the season and his 134 receiving yards was his third-highest total of the season. Andrews’ nine receptions was one short of his career high.
- FS Kejuan Riley has made interceptions in back-to-back games for the second time this season (Sept. 17 vs. Grambling; Sept. 24 at Jackson State)
- LB Brandon Slater made a career-high 13 tackles, while CB Donovan Masline made a season-high eight tackles.
- LB Demarques Taylor has made at least 10+ tackles in three consecutive games.
- Wenzig averaged 51.0 yards on three punts, including a season 69-yarder.