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Win over Hornets could take sting out season, get FSU back to bowling

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FSU (5-5) will play host to Alabama State (5-4) on Saturday on Senior Day in the Seminoles’ last home game of the 2019 season. This game is compelling for one reason: a win will help FSU return to the postseason after not qualifying for a bowl game in 2018.

Alabama State, an FCS program, is in second place in the Eastern Division of the Southwestern Athletic Conference with a 4-2 record. The Hornets’ only other game against an FBS opponent this season resulted in a 24-19 loss to UAB in their season opener. Coach Donald Hill-Eley has compiled a 14-12 record in two-plus seasons guiding the Hornets.

The strength of the Alabama State team is the defense, which ranks 28th in the nation in total defense among FCS programs giving up an average of just 344 yards per game. They rank 3rd in passing yards allowed (152.6 yards per), 91st in rushing defense (192 yards per game) and 50th in scoring defense (25.8 points per game).

The top playmakers on the Hornets’ 3-4 defense are freshman safety Irshaad Davis (5-9, 181) and senior linebacker Devon Booker (6-1, 193). Davis has registered a team-leading 57 tackles, including four tackles-for-a-loss and 1.5 sacks. Booker is second on the team in tackles with 49 stops, including six TFL’s and four sacks. Freshman middle linebacker Colton Adams (6-1, 215) leads the team with eight sacks.

The Alabama State offense is less formidable than its defense. The Hornets ranks 101st in the FCS in total offense, where they average just 323.4 yards per game. They also rank 98th in rushing offense, 118 yards per game, 76th in passing offense (205.6 yards per game) and 80th in scoring offense (24.4 points per game).

The offense is led by junior quarterback KHA’Darris Davis (6-0, 184), who has completed just over 57 percent of his passes for 1,628 yards, 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. His top target is sophomore wide receiver Michael Jefferson (6-3, 194), who has 37 receptions for 633 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Hornets leading rusher is senior Ezra Gray (5-9, 167), who has 612 yards on 127 carries. The Alabama State offensive line is big, averaging 6-4 and 316 pounds. Starting junior right guard Jordan Williams (6-4, 313) played at Tallahassee Rickards High School.

The Hornets shouldn’t provide much of a challenge for the Seminoles and FSU should cruise to victory and into postseason play as it heads into a bye week. FSU then heads to Gainesville for its annual showdown against Florida to conclude the regular season.

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