By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
For The Birmingham Times
Close counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. It doesn’t go very far in college football.
Through seven games, Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University (Alabama A&M) is 2–5 overall and 2-4 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). The Bulldogs were in contention in several of those defeats.
“We’ve been competitive in almost every game, to be honest with you,” said Head Coach James Spady, whose team beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff 40–7 ahead of the 75th McDonald’s Magic City Classic presented by Coca-Cola, which takes place at Birmingham’s Legion Field on Oct. 29, 2016. “There were a couple of games where some folks ran away from us, but we’ve been competitive in most of those games.”
Spady is looking for the Maroon and White to turn the corner and win more of those close games.
“The growth of a football team is when you can take the things that hurt you and turn those things into positives, like overcoming those penalties, overcoming the turnovers, overcoming the special teams miscues,” he said. “When you have a good football team that’s rounding the corner, they start to overcome those things. Then you win those close football games.”
Alabama A&M has been one of the least penalized teams in the Football Championship Subdivision, ranking 18th with 44.7 penalty yards per game through is first six games. In their homecoming loss to Alcorn State, the Bulldogs led the Braves 16–14 at halftime but trailed 21–19 after three quarters.
“For three quarters, we were in good shape, and then in the fourth quarter it just didn’t happen for us,” Spady said after A&M fell 42–19. “They were clicking on all cylinders.”
Conversely, the Bulldogs again fell victim to miscues at the worst time. The head coach said he and his team pride themselves on not making those kinds of mistakes.
“We call them bonehead penalties, the kind of penalties that are unforced,” Spady said. “The last couple of weeks, we’ve made some bonehead penalties. We’ve done some things that are untimely and unfortunate that have led to drive-killing situations or drive-extending situations on defense.
“We’ve got to do a better job of maintaining ourselves, having the kind of composure and control that allows you to stay away from that kind of penalties,” he continued. “It’s the little things that pile up to be one big thing that can be your problem. The penalties are not in themselves the major issue. If we can eliminate them, we’ll be closer to where our goal is.”
Spady said the homecoming game and the Magic City Classic are highly important to Bulldog fans.
“It’s a tremendous honor to play against a school every year in that type of atmosphere, that type of venue, that type of spectacle,” he said. “We lost our homecoming game, so the pressure is on to win the Classic. We’ll do everything we can to get prepared for that.”
Alabama A&M 2016 Football Record: 2–5 overall, 2–4 SWAC
|at Middle Tennessee
at Mississippi Valley State
vs. Prairie View A&M (Louis Crews Classic)
at Texas Southern
vs. Alcorn State (homecoming)
at Arkansas-Pine Bluff
vs. Alabama State (Magic City Classic)
vs. Grambling State
at Jackson State