JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — There's no question that every player on the Jackson State roster is looking forward to the Tigers' rematch with Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Dec. 8 in the SWAC championship game at Birmingham's Legion Field.
It's just that a few players — perhaps those on the JSU defense — may be looking forward to the meeting more than others.
In that last game, a 34-24 UAPB win, the Golden Lions (9-2, 8-1 SWAC) rushed for 263 yards on 43 attempts. That's 6.1 yards per carry.
UAPB running back Dennis Jenkins gashed the Tigers (7-4, 7-2 SWAC) for 154 yards on 24 carries.
All of those numbers still stand as season highs allowed by the JSU defense, a unit that has since tightened up against the run. Still, if ever a group looked forward to a shot at redemption it's this JSU defense.
"I think we've gotten much better against the run," JSU coach Rick Comegy said. "I think we've gone back to doing the things that we do best. We want kids to play fast. Each week they've gotten better, I think our coaches have gotten better in their individual drills with players — making them quick, getting off blocks — I think we've improved.
"I think we'll be a better team defensively."
Comegy said the Tigers' first-half struggle during last Saturday's 37-11 win over Alcorn State was a necessary evil.
Having cruised in recent lopsided wins, JSU led just 6-3 after a mistake-prone first half.
It responded with a 21-point outburst in the second half that saw JSU's offense, defense and special teams each play a role.
Quarterback Clayton Moore, who threw an interception and lost a fumble, said the adversity — and the final result — will only help the Tigers moving forward.
"It's huge and to win it like we won it," Moore said. "The second half we did eventually blow them out, but that first half was a grind. We needed that."
Comegy said he hopes players will stay sharp over the Thanksgiving break.
JSU will return to the practice field to start preparations for UAPB on Tuesday.
"We'll start back with our heavy, full pads (practice)," Comegy said. "We'll have inside drills ... do the things that we always do on a Tuesday."
Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com