Jag Volleyball Drop Match to SBC Leader UALR 3-1

October 20, 2014 · By · Filed Under Sun Belt Conference, Volleyball · Comment 

USA_VolleyballThe Jaguar volleyball team dropped their third consecutive match on Sunday as they lost to conference leader Arkansas-Little Rock 3-1 (22-25, 25-22, 15-25, 13-25) in Jag Gym.

Mechell Daniel led the Jags with 14 kills and added nine digs. Deanna Canfield had 13 kills, one shy of tying her career high, off the bench. Jenna Hassell led the team with 16 digs.

UALR (17-4, 11-0 SBC) won its 12-consecutive match. During the streak they have only lost six sets.

All-conference duo Sonja Milanovic and Edina Begic led the Trojans offensively with 17 kills and hitting .417 with 15 digs and five blocks for the former and 14 kills for the later.

The Trojans entered the match leading the Sun Belt and ranking 13th in the nation in blocks, which was key in their victory over the Jaguars.

South Alabama (9-11 overall, 4-6 SBC) will open a three-match road trip on Friday when they travel to Louisiana-Monroe with first serve scheduled for 6pm.

Bridge Earns SBC Offensive Player of the Week

October 20, 2014 · By · Filed Under Football, News, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 
Brandon Bridge earns his first SBC Offensive Player of the Week Award for his play against Georgia State on Saturday. | Photo: Brad Puckett usajaguars.com

Brandon Bridge earns his first SBC Offensive Player of the Week Award for his play against Georgia State on Saturday. | Photo: Brad Puckett usajaguars.com

South Alabama’s Brandon Bridge was named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week for his play against Georgia State on Saturday.

Bridge had part in all three of the Jaguars touchdowns against the Panthers as he ran for two and threw another as he accounted for 263 yards of total offense, 137 of them came on the ground and 65 of them on the game winning drive with five minutes left in the game. His rushing yardage set a new single game record for the Jags. It was also the third most rushing yards against a Division I opponent behind Kendall Houston’s school-record 175 yards also against Georgia State in their first-ever meeting.

In the Jaguars final scoring drive, Bridge ran for 65 yards to the Panther 20 yard line, then two plays later threw an 18 yard touchdown to Danny Woodson II to secure the 30-27 victory.

This is Bridge’s first SBC Player of the Week honor and the first for a Jaguar since Jay Jones received the award on December 9, 2013 and the first quarterback to receive the award since Ross Metheny on September 9, 2013.

Through six games Bridge is 94-of-183 for 1,174 yards and eight touchdowns through the air. He also has 294 yards rushing on 68 attempts. Under his guidance the Jaguar offense is averaging over 400 yards per game of total offense.

Senior RB Jay Jones May Miss Remainder Of Season

October 20, 2014 · By · Filed Under Football, News, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 
Running back Jay Jones diving in for a Jaguar touchdown against Kent State in 2013.

Running back Jay Jones diving in for a Jaguar touchdown against Kent State in 2013.

The news coming from the Jaguars on Sunday concerning Jay Jones was good. According to one of the assistant athletic trainers, Jones will have an MRI on Monday but it is likely his season has come to an end.

Jones, a 5’9″ 195-pound running back from Horn Lake, Ms. who came to South Alabama after two seasons at Northeast Mississippi Community College was injured on the game-winning drive against Georgia State on Saturday night.

Jones’ injury came on the second play of the three play 85 yard drive for the go-ahead score. On the first play Brandon Bridge tucked the ball and ran 65 yards to the Panther 20 yard line. Jones then took the handoff off up the right side of the line into a mass of Panthers and Jaguars for a two yard gain. It was unclear what exactly happened in the scrum, but towards the end of the play he appeared to fumble the ball. The nearest referee called him down and a review did not have enough evidence to overturn the call on the field. He was helped off the field and did not put any weight on his left leg.

On the next play, Bridge connected with Danny Woodson II for an 18 yard touchdown to take the lead.

Jones is the leading rusher for the Jaguars this season with 393 yards on 83 carries for three touchdowns as well as seven catches for 49 yards. He was also the leading rusher a year ago with 737 yards on 143 carries with five touchdowns. For his Jaguar career, he has 226 carries for 1,130 yards and eight touchdowns.

Stepping up to replace him will be senior Kendall Houston and redshirt freshman Xavier Johnson along with Terrance Timmons and T.J. Glover. Houston has 209 yards on 48 carries this season while Johnson has 188 yards on 34 carries, most of it coming over the last couple of weeks. Timmons has nine carries for 81 yards so far this season.

“You hate it for a guy who’s such a great leader and such a great player; you hate it for him first and you hate it for us as a team second to lose a really good football player and leader,” South Alabama head coach Joey Jones was quoted by AL.com after the conclusion of the Jaguar’s practice Sunday night. “We don’t know the final verdict yet, but it doesn’t look good right now.

“We’ve got Xavier (Johnson), we’ve got Kendall (Houston) and we’ve got Terrance (Timmons) and T.J. Glover is actually in the mix. We’re pretty deep at running back for this year so I think those guys will step up.”

After the win on Saturday, several of Jones’ teammates went on social media sending prayers and asking for the fans to pray for him as well.

This will be a short week for the Jaguars as they are scheduled to play Troy on Friday night at Ladd-Peebles Stadium for a nationally televised showdown against in-state rival Troy. Because of the short week, the players will not have Monday off, which they normally do. Instead they will come in Monday morning and have their normal Tuesday type practice and move their schedule up a day.

Jaguar Soccer Closes Out Home Schedule With Pair of Wins

October 20, 2014 · By · Filed Under Soccer, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 

USA_SoccerSouth Alabama used two late goals by Charde Hannah to extend their unbeaten streak to a school-record 12 matches with a 2-0 win over Georgia Southern Friday night at The Cage.

Hannah’s two goals, her 15th and 16th of the season and leads the Sun Belt, in the 85th and 90th minutes of the match ties her for second place in school history and her 38 points are fifth-best in school history.

The first goal came when the took advantage of a short pass to the goalkeeper by taking control of the loose ball then put it into the empty net. The second goal came off of a pass from Rio Hardy after they played a 1-2 outside the box.

In the first half the Jags held an 11-1 shot advantage over the Eagles, but were even with each team having eight shots.

Sarah Hay made three saves in her seventh shutout and the teams ninth of the season, both are tops in the conference.

“Right now with all of these teams beating each other in the league, all we can do is focus on ourselves and I’m pleased we got the result,” Jaguar head coach Graham Winkworth said after the match. “I thought the first half, even though we went in 0-0, was probably better from a playing standpoint than the second, but at the same time, we got the result and I’m proud of the girls for digging in.

“Often things open up in the second half when teams make adjustments. (Georgia Southern) coach (Brian) Dunleavy is a very good coach—he made some adjustments and we made some adjustments so the game opens up a little bit. At the same time, as it opens up for them, it opens up for us as well, and fortunately we were able to put a couple in the net.”

On Sunday, junior Jordan Duncan’s header proved to be only goal of the match and extended the school-record unbeaten streak the 13 matches with a 1-0 win over Georgia State.

“It was a physical game,” coach Winkworth said. “Both teams work extremely hard and you expect that sometimes when teams are very athletic and hardworking. Georgia State is a hardworking team, so a lot of credit to them. It was a close game and we were just fortunate we defended well throughout and I’m proud of our team’s effort. It was a good, positive result for us and it puts us a little closer to start talking more about finishing high at the table.”

Duncan’s goal, her sixth of the season but only her first since September, came in the 29th minute. Freshman Sophie Haywood found Sophomore Emily Farrell out wide, who then lifted a cross that Duncan was able to head into the upper right corner of the net against the Panther goalkeeper.

“It was a very nice goal,” Winkworth observed about the game-winning goal. “It’s funny because we played keepy-uppy with headers yesterday in practice because I was frustrated from the day before, so it’s funny that the goal came from her head. I told her it was all because of our practice yesterday and she was laughing at me.”

South Alabama’s defense held the Panthers to only five shots total and only one shot on goal. Sarah Hay made one save for her eighth shutout of the season.

The Jags had 22 shots, 11 on goal and two that hit the crossbar.

“The defense was fantastic,” Winkworth said. “They won first balls, they won second balls and they didn’t allow the ball to bounce like they did on Friday night. I’m really proud of their effort; they did exactly what we asked them to do and I can’t speak highly enough of them.

“From an attacking standpoint, the attack began with them so I’m proud of the way we played with the ball at the back. It was great work from our backline.”

South Alabama will close out the regular season next weekend in Arkansas with a Friday afternoon match against Arkansas State and Sunday at Arkansas-Little Rock.

The Jaguars are tops in the conference with 19 points with a 14-2-1 record overall and a 6-0-1 record in conference play. Texas State sits in second place with 15 conference points and a 10-5-1 record overall and 5-2 record in conference play.

Late Touchdown Drive By Bridge Leads Jaguars Past Panthers 30-27

October 19, 2014 · By · Filed Under Football, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 
Shavarez Smith holds up the SISU War Hammer at midfield prior to their homecoming game against Georgia State.

Shavarez Smith holds up the SISU War Hammer at midfield prior to their homecoming game against Georgia State.

Brandon Bridge led a late fourth quarter drive to defeat Georgia State at Ladd-Peebles Stadium to 30-27 in a game that had five lead changes in the second half. It was also their first time since their double-overtime win over Florida Atlantic, that the Jags have won a game when trailing after three quarters.

The Jaguars stopped the Panthers, who were driving into Jaguar territory, and forced them to punt. Bridge took over at his own 15 yard line with just over five minutes remaining in the game. Bridge would then take the first snap and scamper 65 yards to the Panther 20 yard line setting up his 18 yard touchdown pass to Danny Woodson II two plays later to put the Jags up for good.

Bridge would lead the team rushing for the first time with a career-best 137 yards on 15 attempts. It was also the most by a Jaguar quarterback. He was also 11-of-32 for 126 yards through the air.

Georgia State continued to move the ball well through the air, as they have all season, as quarterback Nick Arbuckle was 23-of-40 for 311 yards and three touchdowns. Donovan Hardin led all receivers with 10 catches for 132 yards. Robert Davis had 108 yards on only four catches. Joel Ruiz added 75 yards on seven catches.

Theo Rich set a game-record with 3.5 sacks and a career high eight stops total. Terrell Brigham led the Jaguars defense with 10 stops with Roman Buchanan adding nine stops and a pass break up.

Jay Jones, who left late with an injury, finished the game with 71 yards on 16 carries. Xavier Johnson added 58 yards and Houston had a season-high 55 yards to help lead the Jaguar rushing attack which outgained the Panthers 321-90 on the ground and also outgained them 447-401 in total yards.

“I told the team after the game that I’m not real pleased with some of the things we did tonight, but there are some things I am pleased with. It wasn’t a complete game for us, but it’s a win,” South Alabama head coach Joey Jones said. “You can’t always play great. I didn’t think we played great tonight and we still won. I thought that was a big deal. The last three series were in our favor — we scored, stopped them and then ate the clock up. I thought that was a great way to win.”

“We knew going in, other than last week, that Georgia State is playing unbelievable this year. They are the most improved team in the Sun Belt,” Coach Jones explained. “They’re very good on offense, but our guys really played well inside the red zone. [Defensive coordinator] Coach [Travis] Pearson really stresses that — it’s a big deal. They’re not in there until they’re in there and our guys fought and kept them out of there. Some of the biggest plays of the game were on the goal line.”

Georgia State falls to 1-6 on the season and 0-4 in Sun Belt Conference play. Head coach Trent Miles is 1-18 after taking over the reigns from Bill Curry last season. “We had opportunities to win the game, but give South Alabama credit, they stepped in and did it at the end when they had to,” Miles stated. “Joey is doing a great job with them, he’s done a great job building the program the right way. We’re trying to build our program, and our kids are battling their tails off. I’m proud of them. We’re going to start winning football games, I don’t know when it’s going to happen but it will.”

South Alabama improves to 4-2 overall and 3-1 in conference play, just two wins away from bowl eligibility. They will host in-state and conference rival Troy on Friday for a nationally televised game on ESPNU. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30pm at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

Jaguar Soccer Closes Out Home Portion Of Regular Season This Weekend

October 17, 2014 · By · Filed Under Soccer, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 

USA_SoccerThe South Alabama soccer team will close out the home portion of their regular season this weekend with matches on Friday and Sunday.

After last weeks overtime wins against Texas State and Appalachian State, the Jags find themselves sitting on top of the conference with 13 points. Freshman Charde Hannah and junior Nini Rabsatt-Smith had the game-winning goals in those matches respectively.

Georgia Southern (9-3-1, 4-1 SBC) enters the 7pm Friday match against the Jaguars tied for second place in the conference with 12 points.

Sunday’s match against Georgia State (5-6-4, 3-1-1 SBC) are fourth in the conference with 10 points. They have rebounded from an 0-4-2 start to earn seven points in their last nine matches. They have also won back-to-back matches for the first time all season when they defeated Arkansas State and Georgia Southern by a combined score of 7-2.

Entering this weekend South Alabama has an 11 match unbeaten streak, tied for the longest in school history, as they have not lost a match since Kennesaw State defeated them 2-1 on August 31. If the Jags can get a win against Georgia Southern they will set a new school record for consecutive games without a loss.

Sunday will also be senior day. They will recognize two seniors, Shawn Meach and Emi Passini, prior to the 1pm start.

Come out and support your lady Jaguar soccer team at The Cage!

Friday Homecoming Schedule

October 17, 2014 · By · Filed Under Football, News · Comment 

The schedule of today’s homecoming events:

  • 12pm – Lunch with Coach Joey Jones at the Football Fieldhouse, Reservations requied.
  • 4-6pm – College Reunion Party at Alumni Hall Lawn.
  • 6pm – Homecoming Parade along South Drive
  • 6:45pm – Homecoming Pep Rally at Mitchell Center North Plaza
  • 7pm – USA Women’s Soccer match against Georgia Southern at The Cage. Free Admission
  • 8pm – “Battle of the Greeks” NPHC Ste Show in the Mitchell Center.

South Alabama vs Georgia State – A Clash of Claws

October 16, 2014 · By · Filed Under Football · Comment 
South Alabama lines up inside the one yard line. Ross Metheny would dive over the top to score the Jaguars third touchdown of the game on this play in the Georgia Dome against Georgia State on November 30, 2013.

South Alabama lines up inside the one yard line. Ross Metheny would dive over the top to score the Jaguars third touchdown of the game on this play in the Georgia Dome against Georgia State on November 30, 2013.

South Alabama heads into their homecoming game against Georgia State on Saturday after their second and final open date of the regular season. After starting the season 1-2 in their first three games, they have put together back-to-back wins in impressive fashion.

They opened with a strong showing in the first half against Kent State, but then struggled until a late touchdown sealed the game. Then at home against Mississippi State and Georgia Southern the Jaguar offense struggled with dropped passes and penalties.

Road wins over Idaho and Appalachian State have put the Jaguars back above .500 and producing offensively again. But both of those teams have been struggling themselves. But a win on the road, especially when you have to travel thousands of miles, is always a good thing.

South Alabama will finish out the season with seven consecutive games, the first five are conference games, to close out the regular season. Their first two opponents, Georiga State (this weekend) and Troy (Friday, October 24), have a combined record of 2-10 this season as each have only one win so far.

Georgia State opened the season with a last-second victory over FCS Abilene Christian then has suffered five consecutive losses since. Troy on the other hand opened the season with five consecutive losses, including one to the same Abilene Christian that the Panthers defeated. But the Trojans finally put on in the win column last weekend against New Mexico State after longtime Trojan head coach Larry Blakeney announced his retirement after the season.

Georgia State’s defense ranks dead last in the conference in most statistical categories including scoring defense and total yards allowed per game.

Offensively the Panthers fare better. They rank second in the conference in passing yards per game (301.8) but only manages 118.3 yards per game rushing which comes in 9th in the conference. Obviously it is hard to win games when your average score on the season is 27.0 to 41.7 and not in your favor.

South Alabama’s defense has played very well all season long. However over the last two weeks, aided by a more efficient offense, the defense has turned it up against opponents. The Jags rank in the top 3 in many key defensive categories including second in pass defense (190.8 yards per game), third in total defense (374.8 yards per game) and third in scoring defense (21.4 points per game).

Offensively the Jags struggled early but flipped the switch two games ago against Idaho. In their two losses, the Jags suffered from a rash of dropped passes and penalties which stalled drives. Many people feel that USA should have had an early 14-0 lead on Mississippi State. They only managed to put up nine points against MSU and Georgia Southern combined.

Even after the last two games the Jaguar offense still ranks in the bottom half of the conference in most statistical categories. Their best category is rushing offense where they rank 6th in the 11 team conference.

South Alabama and Georgia State had developed quite the rivalry early on. Georgia State started playing football a year after South Alabama began their program. The Panthers made ESPN headlines by hiring Bill Curry to build the program from scratch with their eyes set on the FCS ranks. South Alabama and the Panthers scheduled a home-and-home series, which they split. When the opportunity presented itself for Georgia State to receive an invitation to move up to the FBS ranks and join the Sun Belt, they accepted but they have struggled over the last two-and-a-half seasons.

In Curry’s final season in 2012, the Panthers finished 1-10 and they hired Trent Miles, the former Indiana State head coach, to replace the retiring Curry. Since 2012 the Panthers are 2-27.

Last season in Atlanta, Shavarez Smith broke out for 194 yards on 10 catches an a touchdown against the Panthers in a 38-17 win.

Look for the Jaguars to declaw the Panthers again this year. I think Xavier Johnson will get more playing time this week, especially if the Jaguars go up early on the Panthers. South Alabama will run their record to 3-1 against Georgia State with a predicted score of 34-17.

Online Publication Expects USA Football Attendance to “go down over the course of the season”

October 15, 2014 · By · Filed Under Editorials, Football · Comment 

One online publication wrote that South Alabama’s attendance increase this season has been skewed by the “hordes of Mississippi State fans” who attended the Jaguars first home game this season for a sell-out record crowd of 38,129. They then pointed to the 11,348 for the following game against Georgia Southern and expects the USA’s attendance increase statistic to dwindle down the rest of the season.

USASlam

Residents will tell you that Mobile has traditionally been a fairweather sports town. Unless your cry is “roll tide”, “war eagle” or involves high school football, Mobilians tend to only show up when you are winning and/or playing the “big dogs” as they would say. But South Alabama is working hard to build their fan base and change that mentality a little bit.

Many use the excuse that the location where Ladd-Peebles Stadium is located and the condition of the stadium as two major reasons why they do not attend games. Many hardcore fans realize that if it wasn’t for the city of Mobile having Ladd-Peebles Stadium it would have been exponentially more difficult to have started football a mere six years ago.

Having an underutilized 38,000 seat stadium in your back yard is an envious problem to have, many would say.

Many of those same fans who use the excuse of the stadium and location criticize the University for not building an on-campus stadium. But former Sun Belt Member Florida Atlantic, who started football in 2001, finally built an on-campus stadium that seats 29,419 in 2011 at the cost of $70 million. Director of Athletics Joel Erdmann is asked about an on-campus stadium on a regular basis and one of his standard answer is along the lines of “if you give us the money, we will build it.”

Is this how we want to be known?

Do we want to be known as the fairweather town where good things quickly blossom but fades due to neglect? (Not that I think South Alabama football will fade, it is college football deep in the heart of probably the nation’s most avid fanbase.)

Promised attendance will not get the stadium built any sooner. The only thing that will get a stadium built sooner rather than later will be strong attendance. And money, money will definitely get it built sooner.

If you have several million dollars laying around waiting to be put to good use, I can put you in touch with Dr. Erdmann in a heartbeat. He will probably put your name on the stadium too.

Monday Press Conference – Homecoming Edition

October 14, 2014 · By · Filed Under Football, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 

Helmet_CameraHead football coach Joey Jones held his weekly press conference along with defensive lineman Ridge James and offensive lineman Ucambre Williams to review the previous week, which was an off week for the team, and to preview their upcoming contest against Georgia State.

Coach Jones opened the press conference with his opening statement. “We had a good week last week, I thought we had three good days of practice which consisted of half working on fundamentals and half working on Georgia State. Our guys came back last night and you could tell they were refreshed and ready to go, which I think is a good thing. We’ll find out when we put on the pads tomorrow, we’ve challenged them that they better to be ready to go to have a chance to win this ballgame.

“I think we will take that mentality into practice this week, which will hopefully carry over to the game.”

Jones speaking about if the team’s performance in the previous two games, both wins prior to the off week, help the team as it returns to the field. “It always helps when you play well. You work all offseason to have good games on Saturday, so when you see it happening it is certainly gratifying and builds your confidence level. You gain confidence by doing things the right way. But there is so much room to improve, I know all coaches say that, but I mean it. There are areas I look at and think if we can improve, and I think our kids have taken that mentality knowing that we are never going to be perfect but getting as close to perfect as we can. The only way to do that is by working on the field, and gaining that experience in games and actually making plays when we have to.”

Jones spoke at length about the team’s improvement before their open weekend. “We have played really good defense the whole year, but I think there is a factor of time where we are growing and leadership has come into play. You see that bond defensively, and defense is the ultimate team effort. Everybody has to fly to the ball and play the same way, and they have bought into that. We’re getting better and better as we go.

“Offensively it was just a matter of execution. If you have one guy drop a pass, or jump offside, or doesn’t make the right read, whatever it is you have to get all 11 going together which I think we are getting closer to having that. On specials teams we had our struggles kicking last week, so we have to find guys who are going to step up to the plate and kick the ball through the goal posts. We have two guys who are very talented, we’re going to work this week to see who is going to do it. Our return game has been pretty good, but one of our goals is to be great at specials teams and we haven’t lived up to par in some facets like we can.”

“I admire Trent Miles, he’s a great man and has done a great job.” Jones said turning his focus towards Georgia State. “They are the most improved team in our league by far. The biggest difference I see in them offensively is they are converting on third down, when it was third-and-eight or third-and-nine last year they struggled but now they are converting 46 percent. They play with a bend-but-don’t-break philosophy defensively — they don’t blitz as much as some of the other teams we’ve faced — but they are real sound in what they do.”

“You have to get your players to make sure they are focusing on the game and practice because there are some distractions during the week, but I don’t worry about that as much in college,” Jones said concerning homecoming week possibly being a distraction this week. “We’re looking forward to having a great crowd, a lot of our alumni will be back; it’s always good to see those folks. I’m excited to see our former players come back, guys who started this program and helped build this thing, it means lot to our players now and to our staff.”

Ucambre Williams

“It came at a good time so we could recover from injuries, and get an extra week to prepare for Georgia State and their scheme,” Williams said about the bye week. “They are a pretty good team. We can’t take them lightly. That week of recovery and getting better really helped.

“We played very well the last two games, but we want to play well at home. We want to show our fans at home how we can play. These last two games really showed how we can play, and we’re going to come home and play like that.”

Williams then talked about the Georgia State defensive, which he will face on Saturday. “They are very big and athletic, especially at defensive end. We really have to hone in on technique, because we’re not a big offensive line. They have some guys who are really athletic on the edges, so we’re going to have to prepare for that. And they have a good linebacking corps, so we are going to have to make some big plays.”

Ridge James

“We are anxious to get back on the field,” James said about this weekend’s game against the Panthers. “I think we have a really good thing going right now, and we just want to keep it going.”

James spoke about the Jaguar defense and his play this season. “We’re just flying around and having a lot of fun on defense. Our coaching staff does a great job of putting us in position to make plays.

“I’ve gotten a lot better since I have been here. I’m just thankful to the coaching staff to put me in the position that I am in now. (Assistant) Coach (Freddie) Roach has helped me out a lot, especially when it comes to playing more physical and with toughness. It’s really paying off.”

South Alabama and Georgia State will face each other for the fourth time overall and the second time in Mobile at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The Jags hold a 2-1 record over the Panthers. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30pm this Saturday.

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