Down but not out: Kent, Tigers stay positive for Alcorn

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 5, 2003

JACKSON &045; If you listen to Robert Kent talk, you’d swear he has the world’s worst case of amnesia.

Surely a bad blow to the head has the standout Jackson State quarterback thinking positive heading into the Capital City Classic despite the Tigers (2-9) being mired in the worst slump in the program since a 1-7-1 campaign of 1954.

Instead, Kent is remaining positive. Saturday’s game against Alcorn State is a huge rivalry game, and it’s the best way to remember an unmemorable season.

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&uot;It’s going to be my last Capital City Classic,&uot; said the talented senior out of Indianola. &uot;We’re going to go out and play the game as hard as we can. They’ve never beaten us since I’ve been here, and I don’t want it to start this year. Hey &045; 2-9, 6-5, they’re not dominant records for either team, but it’s the Capital City Classic. We haven’t lost a game (to them) since (Steve) McNair left, and it’s not going to start this year. Alcorn is coming down here riding a high horse.&uot;

But leave it to situations like these where teams and players forget about their previous difficulties and throw everything out the window. It’s been a forgettable first season at the helm for head coach James Bell, who took over after the school parted ways with former coach Robert Hughes when the Tigers finished 7-4 three straight years.

Bell, met with plenty of criticism at times this year, is staying focused despite the Tigers’ struggles.

&uot;It’s been a true transition this year,&uot; Bell said. &uot;I do believe we’re on the right track. The things you can’t control, you can’t worry about those things. My job is to adjust, and we’ll continue to do those things at Jackson State. Everybody on the team &045; those guys are really focused and working hard.&uot;

It’s been a trying season for both Kent and the Tigers as Kent has battled a toe injury for most of the season. After throwing for well over 3,000 yards his sophomore and junior seasons, Kent recently topped 2,000 yards this season and has just 14 touchdown passes to his credit,

He had 27 his freshman year and 31 his next two.

&uot;I’ve been resting,&uot; Kent said. &uot;With the off week last week, I had plenty of time to stay off it. It’s about 85 percent, and hopefully by Saturday it’ll be 100 percent. But regardless, it’s the Capital City Classic. Out of sight, out of mind, and I’m going to go out there and play a good game. It’s been nagging me since about the fifth or sixth game, but you’ve got to play through injuries.&uot;

Despite the injury and the team’s poor record, Kent is helping the team stay positive. The Tigers enter Saturday’s game on a six-game losing streak with an embarrassing 49-14 loss at home to Alabama A&M two weeks ago on the heels of a 16-14 loss at home to Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

The Tigers’ wins have come over Texas Southern and Mississippi Valley State, but they’d sure like another one on Saturday. So Kent is doing his best to rally the troops.

&uot;He works real hard at that,&uot; Bell said. &uot;He really has, along with the other seniors we have. I’ve been very pleased with that.&uot;

It’s that sense of resiliency that’s got the Braves concerned about Saturday’s game. ASU head coach Johnny Thomas admitted he told one reporter he’ll be glad to see Kent leave after he’s burned the Braves for three straight years &045; including last year’s game where he threw for 374 yards and five touchdowns.

&uot;I haven’t won a game against Jackson State since I’ve been head football coach at Alcorn State,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;When people beat you, you have a great deal of respect for them. Don’t get me wrong &045; I hope (Kent) goes on to the next level, graduates and has an outstanding career. But I’d love to see him leave Jackson State. Wouldn’t you?&uot;