Trip to Auburn a homecoming for pair of JSU defenders
(STATS) - Jacksonville State is set to face its toughest challenge of the season.
For at least two Gamecocks, this weekend's visit to Auburn offers more than a chance to suit up against one of the best teams in all of college football.
Defensive tackle Devaunte Sigler and end Chris Landrum each began their careers at Auburn. Landrum, who spent time at fullback and linebacker with the Tigers, saw little action before transferring in 2013. Sigler, however, recorded 12 tackles over two seasons before he was dismissed from the team in March 2013 for a violation of team rules.
"It will be fun and it will be emotional, but after the first snap it will be football again," Landrum said of the contest.
Sigler has made the most of his time at Jacksonville State, earning Ohio Valley Conference defensive player of the year honors after recording 36 tackles and 3 1/2 sacks in 2014. He was credited with two tackles in Saturday's 23-20 win over then-No. 8 Chattanooga.
Though the Gamecocks moved up two spots to No. 5 and received 24 first-place votes in the STATS FCS Poll after passing that early test, the real challenge comes this weekend some 100 miles away at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"I think it is like a championship game because you won't play anyone better on the FCS level," coach John Grass said. " It's a high level that you have to play."
The Gamecocks are 5-18 against FBS schools, but beat Mississippi in 2010 and Georgia State in 2013.
Grass, however, is more concerned with his own team and not the opponent.
"I always say that teams make their most improvements from game one to game two," he said. "We are calling this game two and not worried about who it is, we are worried about ourselves and how we can get better each day."
Twice in the final six games of his freshmen season, Tennessee Tech's Brock McCoin posted games of least 100 yards receiving. During last Saturday's 52-24 loss at Houston, the sophomore caught nine passes for 264 yards - the most ever by an OVC player against an FBS opponent.
McCoin's yardage total is the fourth-highest single-game effort in league history. He also caught touchdown passes of 71 and 77 yards to earn OVC offensive player of the week honors.
"He made a lot of big plays," Golden Eagles coach Watson Brown said. "He's carrying over what he did from last year."
Though Eastern Illinois was blown out 33-5 by Western Illinois last Thursday, junior linebacker Seth McDonald was named the conference's defensive player of the week after he was credited for 17 tackles - 12 solos - and a forced and recovered fumble.
Jacksonville State's Connor Rouleau was the league's specialist of the week after connecting on field goals of 34, 35 and 32 yards.
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With that loss to Western Illinois, EIU is in danger of going 0-2 for a second straight season when it visits Northwestern on Saturday. The Panthers actually outgained the Leathernecks 308-266 and had three more first downs, but they committed five turnovers.
It was so painful for EIU coach Kim Dameron that he head to resort to speaking in cliches to describe the effort.
"My mama told me if you don't have anything good to say, then don't say anything at all," he said. "I can't control who we play. We're just going to see if we can play better."
The Panthers are 9-34 against the FBS, and lost 42-21 at Northwestern in 2011.
Separated by 50 miles, Southeast Missouri State and Missouri Valley Conference member Southern Illinois will meet for the 83rd time and seventh consecutive season this weekend.
"It has a lot to do with recruiting," Redhawks coach Tom Matukewicz said of the strategy of the scheduling. "Our season's more focused on the OVC, but this definitely affects our fan base and recruiting."
While Matukewicz hopes there's a good crowd on hand, a better outcome than in years past could possibly go a long way in helping SEMO reel in some of the area's top prospects. The Redhawks have lost four straight and eight of the last nine meetings.
After Murray State gave Mitch Stewart a 52-12 victory over Kentucky Wesleyan in his head coaching debut last week, he'll try to guide the Racers to their first 2-0 start since 1998.
Standing in the way: a Northern Illinois program that's won 58 games since the start of the 2010 season. The Racers have dropped their last 23 contests against FBS programs.
"The film is obviously going to be different this week," Stewart said.
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Eastern Kentucky remains the only other OVC team ranked in the STATS FCS Poll, but it dropped two spots to No. 19 even with last Thursday's 52-10 victory over Valparaiso.