The inches that Alabama A&M needs are all around

With so much history, it’s easy to see why A&M coach Anthony Jones would take his oh-so-close home loss last week to Grambling so hard.

After all, these two programs have met in three editions of Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game, and A&M has come up short each and every time. (Grambling defeated Alabama A&M 14-6 in 2000, 31-19 in 2002 and 45-6 in 2005.) In fact, Jones, hasn’t beaten a GSU squad since an overtime thriller 2006; current Tigers coach Rod Broadway is 4-0 against the Bulldogs. (There’s also the little matter of getting passed over for the Grambling job, but I digress.)

OK, so there’s a lot there. Still, may I politely suggest that it’s time for Jones to have his Come To Pacino Moment?

A&M (2-3 overall, 1-2 in SWAC) has made a habit of starting slow before rallying for Eastern Division titles, beginning 1-2 in SWAC play in 2005, 3-2 in 2006 and 1-2 in 2009 before rallying to advance to the SWAC title match in Birmingham, Ala.

Besides, the Jackson State game has been the real pivot point, anyway. And guess who’s next on the schedule?

A&M heads to JSU (3-1, 1-1 and coming off a bye) for a 4 p.m. Saturday match at Veterans Memorial Stadium. This is the one that matters.

Jackson will likely throw and throw and throw behind the arm of quarterback Casey Therriault, who’s helped JSU to the top of the league standings in total and passing offense. (In fact, Jackson comes into this averaging just 91 rushing yards a night, No. 98 out of 117 FCS teams.) Though Alabama A&M is No. 2 in the 10-team SWAC for total defense, its passing defense is closer to the middle of the pack at No. 4.

It’s true, this game won’t win the East for either squad, but it could decisively impact who loses it.

Alabama A&M beat Jackson State in 2006, lost to JSU in overtime in 2007, lost again in 2008, and then won in 2009. Each time, the winner of the A&M-Jackson contest advanced to the SWAC Championship Game.

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