What: South Alabama Jaguars (6-4) at South Carolina Gamecocks (5-5)
Where: Columbia, SC. Williams-Brice Stadium
When: Saturday, kickoff 11AM CST.
How to Watch: Fox Sports South
How to Listen: Lite Mix 99.9FM in Mobile, iHeartRadio platform
Line: South Carolina by 25.5
South Alabama travels to Columbia, SC to take on the Ol’ Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier, and his South Carolina Gamecocks. This is the second SEC team the Jaguars have faced this season. They lost their home-opener to Mississippi State 35-3.
But the Jaguars have come a long way since that game and have clinched bowl eligibility. The only thing left is to finish the regular season, hopefully with a bang. What a bang it would be to sneak a win out of Columbia!
But the Jaguars will have to play a near flawless game to do it. Against Texas State they overcame four turnovers, three of them being fumbles on three-consecutive possessions all in their own territory. But the Jaguar defense only allowed 10 points off of those three turnovers. They won’t be so lucky against an SEC team.
In their first five wins of the season, the Jags only turned the ball over twice. In their four losses they have turned the ball over 11 times. Bottom line, they have to protect the ball.
In all six of their wins they have rushed for over 150 yards in each of them. They probably won’t be able to just start out running the ball against the Gamecocks, so they will have to used their passing game to make the defense play honest and allow some running lanes to open up. USA likes to test defenses deep and if they can complete some of those passes that will go a long way to help open up the running game.
Hunter Vaughn stepped up big time against Texas State. He has prepared this week as if he’s going to be the starter because it is unknown if Brandon Bridge will be back 100% from his injury. The decision on who will start at quarterback will probably be announced just prior to kickoff. Teams routinely utilize graduate assistants to pour through social media and websites to glean any tidbit of information that may help their team.
Each team has had ups and downs. South Carolina was picked as one of the top SEC teams and to compete for the SEC East crown, but right now getting bowl eligible for their 10th consecutive season is their goal. Coach Spurrier keeps getting asked about his future at South Carolina, they wonder if he will even be there in 2015. These questions and their upcoming game next weekend against rival Clemson could have the team looking beyond this fledgeling football team from the Sun Belt coming into Williams-Brice Stadium.
That could work in the Jaguars favor.
If they could get some early success, score points, convert third-downs and rest the defense, they could make it a long day for South Carolina. And with a little luck the Jaguars could come out with a win.
But rest assured those boys from the South will be playing their hearts out in Columbia.
The Game will be broadcast on ESPN3 as well as over the radio via Lite Mix 99.9FM and the iHeartRadio app.
Navy is 5-5 after a convincing win over Georgia Southern last weekend. The midshipmen have the week off before traveling to Mobile to face the Jaguars. They will then play their annual regular-season finale against Army on December 6.
The Sun Belt Conference named 11-year-old Colby Sawyer the Honorary Sun Belt Football Player of the Week on Monday. Sawyer, an inspiration to the Jaguar football team, signed his National Letter of Intent with the program a week ago and joined head coach Joey Jones for his weekly press conference, made his first appearance with the team on Saturday against Texas State.
Sawyer signed with the Jags as part of Team Impact which helps match kids with chronic or life-threatening illnesses to teams. He was diagnosed in June of 2012 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and had over a year of chemotherapy treatments as a patient at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital.
After signing with the Jags he received his own locker, jersey and other USA team items. He was with the team during their bus trip to the stadium, through pregame warm-ups, and when Coach Jones was addressing the team. He was also led the team out onto the field. And he was also on the sidelines when the Jaguars rallied from 10 points down and held on in the final seconds to defeat Texas State to earn bowl eligibility and most likely their first bowl invitation.
Derek Westbrook, who is a member of the student athlete advisory committee (SAAC), had a part in helping to make this possible. The senior attended the Sun Belt’s SAAC conference this past summer in New Orleans as a representative from South Alabama. He was also recognized during halftime recently as being a member of the South Alabama Cross Country team who won the SBC Title this season.
“Colby has impressed all of us throughout the Sun Belt with his spirit for the Jags and his inspiration to the team,” Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson said. “Colby is unquestionably deserving of this award and all of the recognition that he has received.”
Team IMPACT’s mission is to match kids facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses with teams throughout the United States. So far they have placed 560 kids with 280 schools in 37 states, one of their latest being Sawyer.
The Jags used a late run to defeat Carroll 85-64 as the Golden Eagles used a strong second half to defeat William Carey 86-63.
Southern Miss has a new coach this season. Doc Sadler has a career record of 150-107 in his ninth season as a head coach. USM is ranked #138 in the Sagarin ratings while the Jaguars are ranked #280.
The Jags only shot 45.3% against Carroll on Friday night however the Jags won the rebounding battle 38-27 with 19 offensive rebounds. Freshman Abdul Lewis led the Jags in rebounding with 10 in his first career game. All 10 game in the first hald in 11 minutes of play. Augustine Rubit was the last Jaguar to pull down double-digit rebounds in his first-ever game in 2010.
Junior John Brown led all players with 22 points, 14 of them came in the second half where he made all four 3-point attempts. He also went 6-of-6 from the foul line.
The Jags look to improve on their 10-36 all-time record in road openers where they have lost 18 of their last 20. They broke an 11-game string in 2012-2013 when they defeated then #24 ranked Florida State 76-71 in Tallahassee.
The Jags and Golden Eagles are set to tipoff at 7pm in Hattiesburg. The game can be heard on WNTM 710 AM with J.D. Byers calling the play-by-play.
The Jags started off strong by holding the Seminoles scoreless through the first 44 minutes of the match, but a goal with 0:38 remaining in the opening half gave them momentum which they seized and never looked back.
FSU got goals from five different players while goalkeeper Cassie Miller was forced into making only one save as the Seminoles outshot the Jaguars 23-2 and also came out on top in the corner count 11-0.
FSU’s first goal came on a header after an in-swinger from the byline just before halftime. Then in the second half the floodgates opened as they found the back of the net four more times. The first coming seven minutes into the half on a header. Eleven minutes later they added another.
The next goal game in the 73rd minute on another header with the final goal coming six minutes later.
“First of all, I want to congratulate Florida State,” said South Alabama head coach Graham Winkworth. “I think they’re one of the, if not the most well-coached and organized teams in the country, with potentially the most talent in the country as well. So congratulations to Coach (Mark) Krikorian and all the girls and staff, because they are a phenomenal squad. But I could not be more proud of my team. I know the scoreboard is the same as last year, we were kind of hoping the NCAA might send us in a different direction this year, but we were back here. I know the scoreboard says the same thing as last year, but I think the game was a little different and I think at halftime Coach (Krikorian) would admit that he was in a game, and it was a game. For 44 ½ minutes, we held them, maybe the best team in the country, so I could not be more proud of the team.”
Jags Earn Bowl Eligibility, Inside Track to Bowl Game with 24-20 Win over Texas State in final seconds
The University of South Alabama football team overcame injuries, turnovers, allowing 10 points in the first quarter, and a last minute drive by Texas State to hold on for a 24-20 win to close out Sun Belt play.
The game could not have started worse for the Jaguar offense. Three-consecutive fumbles in their own territory yielded 10 points for the Bobcats in the first quarter.
“We had three turnovers in the first quarter, and that wasn’t good, but we were only down 10 points,” head coach Joey Jones explained. “I felt pretty fortunate to be in that situation. The defense came out and fought as they always do.”
The first turnover occurred at the Jaguar 44 and the bobcats took advantage by converting on 3rd and 12 with a 16 yard completion to keep the drive alive after which they would eventually punch it in for the first points of the game.
On the next Jaguar drive Jerrid Jeter-Gilmon forced a fumble by Xavier Johnson, who was also injured on the play and missed the remainder of the game. The bobcats started at the Jaguar 33, but the defense was not allowing another touchdown. Instead the bobcats were forced to kick a 41-yard field goal to take a 10-0 lead late in the first quarter.
The ensuing kickoff was being returned by T.J. Glover when the ball was popped into the air and caught by a Texas State defender at the Jaguar 28-yard line. But again the defense was not going to allow a touchdown. On third and one, Theo Rich stopped the running back for a two yard loss. Then the 38-yard field goal attempt would miss wide left.
The Jaguars would get on the board with about 10 minutes left in the half on and eight play, 56-yard drive for a touchdown. Terrance Timmons gained 29 yards on the drive and moved the chains twice. Vaughn kept the drive alive on fourth-and-three when he found Jereme Jones open for a seven-yard completion. Vaughn would toss a lateral to Jake Howton who would throw it back across the field to Vaughn who would then go 28-yards untouched for the Jaguars first touchdown of the game making it 10-7.
Texas State would regain a 10-point advantage with just over four minutes left in the opening half when tight end Lawrence White was left open running a seam route for a 46-yard touchdown.
The Jags would add a field goal with 1:16 left in the half after Kendall Houston found an opening and ran 31 yards. Aleem Sunanon hit a career-long 46-yard field goal to cut the bobcat lead to 17-10 which would also be the score at halftime.
South Alabama came out in the second half with a renewed energy and determination and held Texas State to just 115 yards and three points.
“Our offensive and defensive staffs did a great job of making adjustments in the second half,” Jones said. “Our kids never gave up, and never had a look in their eyes that they were done. I felt good about it the whole time. I was a little nervous on that last play, but they came up with the play and made it to win the ballgame. It’s a great win for this university.”
USA opened the second half with the ball and only needed four minutes to tie the game. Vaughn kept the drive alive with a 14-yard pass to Bowman on third-and-13. He could come back to Bowman again to gain 45 yards to the Bobcat 9 yard line. Two plays later Vaughn connected with Danny Woodson II in the back corner of the end zone for his first career touchdown pass.
The Jaguars would finally take the lead with just over 12 minutes left in regulation. Terrance Timmons would cap off a 10-play 63 yard drive that took four-and-a-half minutes. The possession began with Timmons breaking off an 11 yard run. Vaughn converted third-and-2 when a 10-yard completion to Bowman on the last play of the third quarter. Kendall Houston set up Timmons for the touchdown after carrying the ball four consecutive times, including a 15 yarder on his first touch.
USA’s defense forced a three-and-out after Maleki Harris stopped Terrence Franks for no gain on a third-and-one. But the on the Jaguars possession, was they were moving the ball, Vaughn’s pass was intercepted along the left sideline and returned to the Jaguars 25 yard line. A nine-yard completion on first down led to a third-and-one at the Jaguar 16, but Maleki Harris blitz up the middle with perfect timing with the snap count to blow up the play and drop Robert Lowe for a four-yard loss. Texas State settled for a field goal to cut the Jaguar lead to 24-20 with over four minutes remaining.
The Texas State defense stiffened and the Jags could not muster a first down and gave the ball back to the Bobcats with two-and-a-half minutes remaining.
A 21-yard completion from quarterback Jones to Brandon Smith on fourth-and-seven kept the drive alive, as did a pass interference call on a third-and-18 at the Jaguar 39 yard line. They could continue to move the ball until they reached the Jaguar 4 yard line with five seconds left on the clock after spiking the ball. The final pass of the game fell incomplete as the Jaguar team broke into celebration.
Hunter Vaughn, the third string quarterback coming into this week, got his first start when Brandon Bridge was not ready to return to the field. Vaughn was an efficient 20-of-28 for 182 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He spread the ball around to seven different receivers with Jereme Jones leading the team with five receptions for 37 yards. Braedon Bowman caught four for 81 yards, Danny Woodson also caught four for 30 yards and a touchdown. Shavarez Smith caught three for 21 yards.
Terrance Timmons led the team on the ground with 74 yards on 11 carries. Houston added 68 yards on 10 carries as the Jaguars rushed for 174 yards as a team with an average of five yards per attempt.
Terrell Brigham had a career-high 12 stops to lead USA. Harris added nine with Jesse Kelley and Davin Hawkins both adding eight each. Kelley had 2.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
The Jaguar defense held the Texas State running game to only 106 yards, they came into the game averaging 227 yards rushing per game.
“First of all, my hat’s off to Texas State — what a game,” Jaguar head coach Joey Jones said. “Last year it came down to the last play of the game, and it did again this year. They have a great program. [Head] Coach [Dennis] Franchione does one heck of a job with that team, we knew it was going to be a tough one. We went all week long knowing that this was do-or-die for us to get into a bowl game.
“I just want to commend our players and my staff who have done so much in preparation to get to this point. They believed all week long, and they believed the entire game. We got behind and had a few early turnovers, but they didn’t panic. I thought we played a wonderful ballgame. Hunter Vaughn came in at quarterback and did a heck of a job even though he really hasn’t practice all year long. My hat’s off to him as well as the rest of the players on this football team, they did a tremendous thing today. We obviously have a chance to get into a bowl now with six wins, and we’re going to be a good one for somebody. We’re excited about it. It could be the first bowl game in South Alabama history.”
“We live in a one-play world, don’t we with our football team? We came up a play or two short tonight,” TSU head coach Dennis Franchione stated. “South Alabama did a nice job. I thought their quarterback did a better job in the second half and that was big for them. We still were able to get down there [in scoring position] and have a chance to win the game, we just didn’t quite get it done.”
South Alabama improves to 6-4 overall and 5-3 in Sun Belt play. Texas State falls to 5-5 overall and 3-3 in conference play.
The Jaguars travel to Columbia, SC to face South Carolina on Saturday for an 11AM CST kickoff.
The Jags know they need this game most of all, it will put them at six wins on the season and get them bowl eligible for the second consecutive season. But it could very well be for an actual bowl slot. You might as well call this a ‘winner take bowl’ game.
Beginning this season, the Sun Belt Conference has automatic ties with three bowl games up from the two bowl tie-in’s they had in previous seasons. The addition of the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery is to thank for that. Georgia Southern is one win away from an undefeated SBC record, but they are ineligible to go to a bowl game barring there not being enough bowl eligible teams to fill all the bowl slots. I have not gone back through all of the caveats to that rule change, but if memory serves me right, they would be among the top choices to fill a slot.
Louisiana-Lafayette, also currently undefeated in conference play, could still get a share of SBC title if they win out. But it’s pretty much a lock that, if they keep playing at the level that they have the past couple of weeks, Lafayette and Arkansas State are going to be the top two teams filling the New Orleans and GoDaddy bowl slots. Which leaves South Alabama and Texas State fighting for that last slot.
This is the Jaguars final conference game while Texas State still has two more after the Jaguars. The Bobcats will face a red hot Arkansas State team, where they will be underdogs, and then wrap up the season against Georgia State where they will be favored (has GaSt been favored in any game this year??). If the bobcats only win at Georgia State (which they should) then USA and TXST will have the same record, but (not so fast) USA will hold the tiebreaker due to winning the head-to-head match-up.
Over recent weeks the Jaguars have been been beat up. Last week they had eight starters out against Arkansas State and it showed. They have lost Jay Jones and most recently Marvin Shinn to season ending injuries.
The big question is: “Have they been able to mend their wounds enough to win this week?” and “Have the reserves stepped up their game to fill those empty cleats?”
So after all that, what does South Alabama need to do to win?
South Alabama (19-2-1) will meet the Seminoles (18-1-1) in Tallahassee in a rematch of last year’s NCAA Tournament appearance where FSU won 5-0. But the Jaguars look avenge that loss.
The two schools have a history that dates back to 1996 where they have met on the pitch in Tallahassee four out of six times, with the ‘Noles holding a dominant 6-0 record.
Both teams enter the match with impressive unbeaten streaks. The Jags enter with an 18 match unbeaten streak dating back to an August 31 loss to Kennesaw State while the Seminoles are undefeated in their last 15 matches dating back to a 2-1 loss to #5 Florida on September 5.
FSU has some impressive wins under their belt this season. They defeated #10 Notre Dame 3-1 and #4 Virginia 1-0 to claim the ACC title as they went 9-0-1 in conferece play as they try to win their first National Championship.
Seven Seminoles earned All-ACC honors including offensive player of the year.
South Alabama earned the SBC’s automatic berth by winning the conference tournament with most outstanding player Charde Hannah. They outscored their three opponents in the tournament 6-1 with freshmen Hannah and Rio Hardy accounting for all the goals en route to joining three teammates on the All-Tournament team.
“We’re absolutely buzzing,” Jaguar head coach Graham Winkworth said. “I’m not sure many people believed when my staff and I arrived that we could go from 217 (in the RPI) in the nation to a team that’s being considered for at-large bids now. It’s a huge accomplishment for the girls and I’m really excited.
“One of the things that gets me most excited is that we’ve done it with two different squads. We inherited a good bunch of girls that just needed to be shown a few things and they worked extremely hard to get to the NCAA Tournament. In the meantime we had to recruit a new team as well, with a few of the older girls remaining. We managed to repeat and take another step forward. It’s a great feeling and we’re excited to have another crack at one of the best, if not the best, team in the nation.”
“It’s more of an experience thing. Last year we went in there starry-eyed,” Winkworth said about the difference between last year and this year. “We need to show respect to our opponents, but at the same time, we need to play without fear. We need to understand that we’re here because we’ve earned it. We deserve to be here and I’m really proud of the girls. What an opportunity to play one of the best teams in the country.”
“They’re very similar to last year,” Winkworth noted. “They’ve returned most of those players from last year. They lost a couple of key ones, but they’ve been replaced with excellent players. To be honest, they have so many talented players, they can only play 11 at one time, so it’s OK for them to have 16 or 17 top stars. We understand they have a lot of threats, not only in open play, but also from set pieces too. We have to do our very best to prepare for those as well as we can.”
“We’ve gone quite a few games without a defeat now and that’s going to breed confidence through the team,” Winkworth said. “During that period we’ve played some very good opponents, including a much-improved Sun Belt Conference. The conference ranking nationally is much higher than this time last year. For us to beat teams of that caliber before the NCAA Tournament is a big momentum builder for us, as well as a confidence boost. We’ve done it with such a young team as well; the future of this program is very bright.”
South Alabama and Florida State get underway at 6pm CST at the Seminole Soccer Complex.
A whopping 16 of the first 17 games of the season will be played at Eddie Stanky Field which begins with a three-game season-opening series against New Orleans February 13-15. On February 17 the Jaguars will host Auburn. They will then host Maryland, a 2014 Super Regional participant, and Arkansas who advanced to the championship game of the NCAA Charlottesville Regional last year as well as Central Florida for a weekend tournament February 20-22.
Their only road game in February will be on February 24 when they travel to Montgomery to play Alabama State in a midweek game. USA returns home to host Brown (February 27-March 1) in four games over three days. Then they host Southerm Miss on March 3 before hosing Arkansas-Little Rock on March 6-8 to open their Sun Belt conference schedule.
Other games of note throughout the season are Southeastern Louisiana on March 10 and Alabama State March 17 in Mobile. The Jags will also host Lafayette runner-up Mississippi State on March 31 and Jackson State on April 1.
The full schedule can be found here.
“You obviously want to try to put together the best schedule you can,” South Alabama head baseball coach Mark Calvi said. “It used to be that 40 wins was the benchmark to get into the Regionals, but now there are teams with 40 or more wins that get left out because their RPI is lower than a team with fewer wins. We definitely don’t want to be left out. It’s RPI-driven first and foremost. We have our sights set on winning the league every year, and we want our guys ready for the competition they will play in the postseason so they will have seen that caliber of a team consistently throughout the year. It’s a tough schedule, but we feel good with it. There’s not a lot of wiggle room, but it creates excitement within our program and with the fans. It’s a great home slate; we’re excited about it.”
“I think the conference is very strong,” Calvi said about the Sun Belt. “We played Georgia Southern back when I was at South Carolina. They are a pretty consistent Regional team, and they were in a tough league in the Southern Conference. They are a very good team, and they have an experienced coaching staff. They definitely add some strength to the league. Those (GSU and Appalachain State) are two very competitive programs. I like the league. We want to make this a three or four-team league in regard to the postseason. I think it is as competitive as ever, but we’ll see.”
The 2015 Sun Belt Conference Championship will be held May 20-24 in Troy, Alabama.
The Jaguars will face the Gamecocks on Saturday, November 22 with an 11am CST kickoff. The game will be broadcast live on FOX Sports South.
USC will be the second Southeastern Conference opponent on the Jaguars’ schedule this season. They were defeated by current #1 Mississippi State in the home opener at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
This will be the Jaguars first non-conference game after playing eight-consecutive conference games since September.