Football 2009: Game 1 Preview

The Jackets take on the Jacksonville State Gamecocks Sept. 5 at 1 p.m.

The Gamecocks enter the upcoming season after an 8-3 campaign in which they went 6-2 in conference play and improved from a mediocre 2007 season. Much of the credit for the team’s success last year is credited to senior quarterback Ryan Perrilloux, who won a national championship with LSU before transferring to Jacksonville State before the 2008 season. Last season Perrilloux threw for 2,298 yards and 19 touchdowns while completing 62.8 percent of his passes; he also rushed for 368 yards and seven touchdowns.

However, the Gamecocks’ star will not play against the Jackets this Saturday because JSU Head Coach Jack Crowe suspended him for a violation of team rules. Instead, sophomore Marques Ivory will get the nod to start under center for the Gamecocks in the opener against Tech. Ivory, who stands at 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds, went 30-0 as a starter and won two state titles at Northside High School in Warner Robins, Ga. but saw the field only sparingly as a freshman in 2008. His primary target in the passing game will be someone familiar to Tech fans and players—Greg Smith, who spent his first three years of eligibility with the Jackets and was a reserve A-back last season.

JSU enters the 2009 season ranked No. 19 in the FCS Preseason coaches’ poll and is the favorite to win the Ohio Valley Conference this season after finishing last season ranked No. 22 among FCS teams.

Last year Tech defeated JSU 41-14 in the teams’ Thursday night opener. Perrilloux completed 22 of 37 passes and had two touchdowns, but he only passed for 136 yards and threw two interceptions. Leading receiver Maurice Dupree caught nine passes for 39 yards. The Gamecocks were forced to punt six times, and Tech’s talent on offense proved too much for the JSU defense as the Gamecocks allowed 482 total yards.

The Jackets enter the 2009 season as the preseason No. 15 team in the nation after a 9-4 season that included a share of the ACC Coastal Division title. 19 starters return from the 2008 squad, including every starter on offense, but the Jackets must replace three defensive linemen who were selected in the NFL Draft.

Jacksonville State was the first of two Division I-AA teams that the Jackets faced last season. The Jackets rarely used the triple option against the Gamecocks’ defense, choosing instead to hold back until ACC games began, but they were still able to cruise to a 41-14 opening night victory. B-back Jonathan Dwyer averaged more than ten yards per carry, finishing the game with 112 yards rushing on 11 carries and scored two touchdowns in his first collegiate start. Quarterback Josh Nesbitt completed five of 12 passes for 87 yards and was also productive on the ground, rushing for 60 yards and two scores; he sat out the second half as then-true freshman Jaybo Shaw took over the offense. As was the case all year, the majority of Tech’s offense came from the ground game, including all six touchdowns.

The offense should have little trouble against the Gamecocks’ defense, and with Ryan Perrilloux forced to sit out the opening game, Tech’s defense will get to face an offense run by a very inexperienced quarterback. The Jackets will look to build a big first-half lead and allow their reserves to get some playing time late in the game.

SPREAD: Tech (-30.5)