Jags To Face First Top-25 Team In Mississippi State On Saturday

September 18, 2012 · By · Filed Under Football 

It’s official. South Alabama will face it’s first top-25 ranked opponent on Saturday when they travel to Starkville, MS. to face Mississippi State at Davis Wade Stadium. It will also mark the Jaguars first SEC opponent.

The Bulldogs are 3-0 on the season with wins over Jackson State (56-9), Auburn (28-10) and Troy (30-24) and have cracked the AP top-25 poll at #23. The Jags, a 34.5-point underdog to the Bulldogs, have a lot to overcome following their 31-7 loss at North Carolina State.

“We realize we’re going up against a top-25 football team in Mississippi State,” Jags head coach Joey Jones said. “They have done a great job getting that program back on the map, so to speak. They have a great coaching staff and great players. We’re looking forward to playing a team like them.”

MSU may be the biggest team the Jags have ever faced. “They are very big,” Jones said. “You look across their front line on offense and the front line on defense and they have guys who are 6-foot-6 and 340, 330, 325 and 6-7 and those kind of things. They’ve done a great job recruiting some very big linemen, which is the first thing you see. The second thing you see is that they are playing with a lot of confidence right now. They beat Auburn 28-10 a couple of weeks ago and they are playing at a high level and deservedly so. They are doing a good job early in the year.”

But Mississippi State has some chinks in the armor. Coming into last Saturday’s game the Bulldog defense ranked 11th in the country in total defense yet Troy rolled up over 570 yards of offense against their defense.

Bulldog head coach Dan Mullen likened the Jaguars to Troy. “They’re a tough team being a newer program,” said Bulldog head coach Dan Mullen. “They have a lot of similarities with the team that we played last week, a very similar offensive system. They’re going to try to spread you out and run the football. Defensively, they’re pretty stout. They’ve given up 300 yards a game, a very sound defensive team and they play hard. That’s what you see when you watch them on film.”

But in order to be successful, the Jags will have to improve their execution and limit their own mistakes. “There were a lot of things on film that were so correctable, which is still on us,” Jones said. “Some of it had to do with how good (N.C. State was), there is no doubt about that, but there were a lot of things we didn’t do ourselves that we can correct. That was probably the biggest thing. The second thing was that our kids didn’t quit. I don’t say that trying to make anything sound better, we went out in the second half and could have easily folded since it was 28-0, but the defense came out and played really tough.”

“The offense kept working and drove down and scored,” he continued. “We had a couple chances to kick field goals but went for it. We probably should have kicked looking back on it. The bottom line is we played much better in the second half. To me, that shows the character of a team. When you’re down, how are you going to react? I think the kids really fought hard and kept fighting, that’s one thing I like about this team.”

If you look purely at the numbers, it doesn’t look good for the Jags right now. The Bulldogs average 413 yards per game and 38 points per game while their defense allows an average of 351 yards per game and just over 14 points per game. On the other hand, the Jaguars offense only averages 300 yards per game and just under 16 points per game while their defense yields an average of 300 yards per game and 22.3 points per game.

But the numbers only indicate what they did in the past, not what will happen in the future. “You always prepare to win,” Jones said. “If you’re an oddsmaker you might not pick us to win, but there is somebody who gets beat every week who isn’t supposed to. That’s the way I look at it. We will go out and prepare. We were watching film of last week’s game and had we done some of the things we were supposed to do, the game would have been much closer. It all comes down to us, not how good our opponent is. If we do the right things and put ourselves in a position to win, we will have a chance, and if we don’t we won’t. We are going to get knocked around some. They have some big linemen. But we’ll keep fighting back and trying to make plays and do what we are supposed to do. That is what we have to focus on.”

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