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Barlow, now coach, hopes to continue his magic

By John Zenor
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — When Reggie Barlow talks to his Alabama State players about the significance of the Magic City Classic against Alabama A&M, he speaks from experience.

The Hornets were 4-0 in the rivalry during his playing career when A&M was making the transition from Division II to I-AA, and he'll get his first shot as a head coach Saturday at Birmingham's Legion Field.

"As I tell my players, 'There are not many games that you'll play in your life that carry the magnitude of this one,' " said Barlow, ASU's first-year head coach.

"There have been a lot of stars made in this game."

Last year, it was Ulysses Banks, who had a 99-yard kickoff return to help spark A&M's 21-13 victory. The last five meetings have been decided by a combined 21 points.

This one would seem to be a bit of a mismatch. A&M (6-1, 4-1 Southwestern Athletic Conference) is leading the East Division and has won three straight games. ASU (4-3, 3-3) has lost three in a row but is coming off an open date.

"In six years, this will be kind of the fourth coach I've coached against," A&M coach Anthony Jones said. "And each ball game has been the same, right down to the wire.

"Last year was the 'blowout,' I guess you could call it. We beat them by eight points. The one thing I know for certain is that you're always going to get the best out of both teams in this game."

The teams have two of the league's top rushers in ASU's Jay Peck (706 yards) and A&M's Banks (620). There's a bigger disparity at quarterback.

A&M is led by Kelcy Luke, one of the league's top passers with 1,510 yards and 17 touchdowns against just six interceptions.

ASU is platooning Chris Mitchell and the more mobile Alex Engram, but both have struggled.

Barlow is more concerned about ending that losing skid than continuing his own past success in the Classic.

"It'd be great for me to win, but it would be more special to see our guys get back on track and get back the feeling we had three or four weeks ago," he said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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