Sep. 25—JACKSONVILLE — As Rich Rodriguez walked into Monday's press conference, he joked that everyone in the room would be tired and dragging themselves into these weekly pressers in just a month after the Gamecocks complete a 28-day stretch, which will include five mid-week games.
"I've played midweek games back in West Virginia," Rodriguez said on Monday. "We were one of the first ones to play on Wednesday night, Thursday night, Friday night games, but not five in a row. Normally, you play one or two, and then you get back to your normal schedule. We all know it, and we all agreed to it. Five in a row is going to be an interesting, different dynamic."
Jacksonville State faces off against fellow Conference USA newcomer Sam Houston State on Thursday, opening its span of five midweek games. The first three of those games, Sam Houston, Middle Tennessee State and Liberty, come within 13 days of each other.
Despite the newness of the CUSA midweek schedule, Rodriguez is no stranger to weekday night lights.
Rodriguez's first mid-week game at West Virginia came in his first season when the Mountaineers traveled to top-ranked Miami on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2001. The Hurricanes, who became the consensus national champions with a 12-0 record, beat West Virginia 45-3.
His first mid-week win came the next season when Rodriguez's Mountaineers upset the 12th-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies.
"Your practice is going to be shorter, you won't have as many individual fundamental times as you normally have, you've still got to get your team part in," Rodriguez said. "We're not full padded practice at all in this whole five days. We're just going to be helmets and vests, maybe shoulder pads one day, so our players probably aren't complaining about that."
The team's off day is usually on Monday, but that will come on Friday this week.
Receiver Quinton Lane said he's already feeling the effects of the midweek slate.
"This is usually our off day, getting into the swing of things kind of getting those nicks and bruises out from the game on Saturday, getting back out there," Lane said. "Once you're out there, you don't really feel it. After practice, we probably will, but we'll get into recovering and going again."
The accelerated schedule presents an opportunity for the players and the school, with all of the Conference USA midweek games appearing on national television.
"Your preparation is accelerated," Rodriguez said. "You've got to probably simplify things a little bit in all three phases, and then you lose one day because you're traveling on the road on Wednesday, but it's also great exposure for the program."
Linebacker Laletia Hale said the team will have to be more dialed in than in past practices where the team had the full week.
"We'll be able to handle it, but yeah, it can be chaotic," Hale said. "We have school, we have other things outside of football, but we prepare for that. Our coaches, they put us in tough situations, and I feel like we've got each other to help us get through this stretch."
With Rodriguez still pushing for more depth in his quest to play the most players in the country, the team will head into this stretch hoping to heal as much as possible.
"During the bye week, we had time to get a lot of things going," Hale said. "Our bodies, I'm sore right now. We're just going to have to mentally lock-in. It's going to take some extra time at home watching film and coming in to prepare, but we'll be fine."
Sports Writer Thomas Ashworth: 256-236-1551. On Twitter: @ThomasAshworth0.