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Small college preview

Alabama A&M is stepping into unfamiliar territory.

The Bulldogs’ visit to Louisiana-Monroe Saturday night marks their first game against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent. That will make it hard to avoid their first 0-3 start since opening the 1992 season with five consecutive losses.

“We look at this as an opportunity for our kids to grow,” A&M coach Anthony Jones said. “When I first got this schedule on board, we were looking at this as a chance to try to get some valuable experience for our football team. Hopefully it’s something we can learn from before we get into our conference play.”

The Bulldogs (0-2) have faced a harrowing road to open the season, especially for a young team. They have lost to Tennessee State and Jacksonville State.

Now, they face a Louisiana-Monroe team that beat Alabama last season and took Arkansas down to the wire last weekend. Only a missed 45-yard field goal with 36 seconds left kept ULM (0-2) from another Southeastern Conference upset.

A&M did have some encouraging signs against Jacksonville State. Duke transfer linebacker Alfred Williams made his debut for the team and had 10 tackles.

First-year starting quarterback Kevin Atkins still hasn’t thrown an interception in 74 career attempts.

Jones isn’t sugarcoating his team’s challenge, calling it a “tough, tough matchup for us.”

“They’re going to be bigger than us and they’re going to be deeper than us and it’s also on the road,” he said. “All those fears that you have are out there, but it’s still something that’s real. It’s something that you’ve got to be ready to take part in. We’re not going to back down.”

This could be a nice change of pace for ULM, which opened the season against Arkansas and No. 9 Auburn.

In other games involving state Division II and FCS teams:

THURSDAY’S GAME:

West Alabama at Arkansas Tech, 7 p.m.

UWA (1-1) is trying to rebound from a sloppy loss to Harding that included six turnovers and nine penalties entering the Gulf South Conference opener. Arkansas Tech (1-1) hopes to bounce back from a 49-13 loss to Central Missouri.

UWA has been led by the triple threat of quarterback Deon Williams, running back Dameon Baylor and receiver Terry Allen, who all are among the league’s top three in their respective categories.

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SATURDAY’S GAMES:

Samford at Mississippi, 6 p.m.

Samford (2-0) goes to a very different end of the college football spectrum after beating Division II West Georgia and NAIA Faulkner.

The Bulldogs haven’t played a Southeastern Conference team since a visit to Auburn in 1993. They are 2-70-3 alltime against current SEC members. One of those victories came at Ole Miss (1-1) in 1934 when Samford was Howard University.

Samford’s youth makes this an even bigger challenge, since coach Pat Sullivan has played 28 sophomores and 19 redshirt or true freshmen in the first two games.

Tailback Chris Evans has been the offensive leader. He is averaging 8.5 yards on 29 carries with four touchdowns.

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North Alabama vs. Henderson St., 6 p.m.

Division II’s third-ranked team, UNA (2-0) is coming off a win over then-No. 4 Carson-Newman. Henderson State (1-1) just beat FCS team Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

UNA has won the past 12 meetings in this series dating back to 1971, but Henderson State’s program has come a long way with 15 victories the past two seasons.

UNA quarterback A.J. Milwee set a school record with 401 passing yards against Carson-Newman. Linebacker Michael Johnson had 19 tackles in the game.

Henderson State is led by quarterback Roch Carpenter, who has passed for 601 yards in two games.

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Tuskegee vs. Benedict College, 1 p.m.

Tuskegee (1-0, 1-0 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) managed to shut out Miles in its opener and faces another team with offensive deficiencies. Benedict (1-1, 1-0) has managed just 10 points and 121 yards passing in two games.

Granted, it is after only one Tuskegee game but Jacary Atkinson is the SIAC’s top passer, rusher and scorer. Atkinson threw for 258 yards, ran for 139 and accounted for three touchdowns in an easy win over Miles.

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Stillman at Clark Atlanta, 5 p.m.

Stillman (1-1, 1-0 SIAC) is hoping to get its offense going and stop a tough running team in Clark Atlanta (1-1, 0-1).

Stillman managed just 127 total yards in a loss to FCS team Jackson State, and quarterback Darrell Nevis has only 122 yards passing in the first two games.

Clark Atlanta is led by the SIAC’s No. 2 rusher, Winston Thompson, and quarterback Cedric Johnson, who ranks second in total offense. Johnson has 256 yards passing and 109 yards rushing.