Alabama State travels to Sam Houston St. in first match up of - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

Alabama State travels to Sam Houston St. in first match up of season

(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)

The Alabama State Hornets have been one of the top teams in the Southwestern Athletic Conference over the past four years. Yet, the Hornets have not won the SWAC Championship since 2004 when quarterback Tarvaris Jackson led the team to a 40-35 win over the Southern University Jaguars.

The Hornets did make it back to the championship in 2010, but dropped a close game to Texas Southern by a score of 11-6. Texas Southern later vacated the championship due to NCAA infractions.

Alabama State has been picked by SWAC coaches to win the East division, receiving 93 total points and ten first place votes.

The problem is that Alabama State's football team is not eligible for the playoffs this season due to their Academic Progress Rate scores being too low.

The 2013 season for Alabama State got off to a rocky start as the Hornets dropped the first two games to Jacksonville State and Jackson State. The Hornets then went on a six game winning streak, beating teams like Grambling State, Texas Southern and Alabama A&M.

The Hornets then traveled to Lexington, Kentucky where they loss to the Wildcats 48-14, and then dropped a close one to Southern University a week later 31-28. They won their two remaining games in 2013 to finish the season with an 8-4 record.

The season starts on Saturday in Huntsville, Texas as the Hornets take on Sam Houston State in the first match up between the two programs.

Head coach Reggie Barlow looks to have another successful season as he has accumulated a 30-16 overall record over the past four seasons, including a 27-9 conference record.

Alabama State no longer has star running Isaiah Crowell, who is now with the Cleveland Browns. Instead, the Hornets will look for Malcolm Cyrus to carry the workload in the backfield. Fans will also see Jahaad Coleman working behind Cyrus in the backfield. Coleman recorded 207 yards on 32 carries and had three touchdowns in 2013.

This game could be a rush heavy game as last year in the FCS, Sam Houston St ranked sixth in the nation averaging 265 yards rushing per game. Alabama State ranked 14th in the FCS, averaging 236 yards rushing per game.

The good news for the Hornets is that Daniel Duhart will be back under center in 2014. Duhart led the Hornets in 2013 after completing 158 passes on 291 attempts for 1903 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Duhart will look to spread the ball around the field to Earl Lucas and DeMario Bell who combined for over 1,000 yards and six touchdowns in 2013.

The Alabama State defense looks to continue their dominance from 2013 when the team gave up on average113 rushing yards per game and 279 passing yards per game. Alabama State outscored opponents by nearly 100 points in 2013 (401-309).

One thing to watch in Saturday's match up is the kicking game for the Hornets. Bobby Wenzig was the kicker for Alabama State in 2013, but he graduated and now the Hornets have two new kickers who are fighting for the starting job after. Fans should watch to see who wins the kicking job between Preston Clark and Adam Shepherd.

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