USA Gameday Is Finally Here
As the dawn of a new football season is finally upon us the fan, players and coaches are all excited to finally get it underway. The excitement is fueled by South Alabama finally becoming full FBS and Sun Belt members and with that eligibility for a conference championship and a bowl game berth. But lets not put the cart before the horse just yet.
In four seasons of football the Jags are 25-15, including the 2-11 season last year. They were challenged and played some very good teams down to the wire. With the motivation to do better than last season and the carrot on a string that is a possible conference championship and bowl game, this team is high motivated to prove something.
“Going through last season prepared us for this season. There’s no doubt about that. There are certain experiences in life that you just have to go through to be great at anything,” head coach Joey Jones explained. “We went through a season last year where we decided to play Division I football while being a FCS team. It really helped us in the long run.”
The Jags first opponent is Southern Utah Thunderbirds, which will not be a push-over. They also employ the no-huddle spread-style offense which normally means that they have the ability to turn up the tempo as well. Their defense is physical and disciplined.
SUU finished the season with a 5-6 overall and 4-4 in the Big Sky Conference. They return 38 letterwinners including 13 starters but were selected to finish 9th our of 13 schools in the conference in preseason polls. They will enter the game with an inexperienced backfield. Aaron Cantu is a JuCo transfer that is slated to start at quarterback with freshmen Raysean Martin, Pete Williams, Christian Taele and Toa Afatasi at running back. They return three starters at wide receiver including all-conference pick Fatu Moala who caught 65 passes for 810 yards last season with nine touchdowns.
Defensively, the Thunderbirds returns a linebacker who ranked eighth in FCS with 11.5 tackles per game with 116 tackles for his freshman season in Zak Browning. Miles Killebrew returns after recording 69 tackles and is one of four returning starters in the secondary. James Cowser returns on the defensive line for the Thunderbirds after posting 64 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks last season.
“Defensively is where they really shine in my opinion,” Jones commented. “They just get after you. They play really good technique, and they are strong and physical guys who aren’t going to give you anything. They’re very well-coached, and they do things the right way.”
South Alabama returns 16 starters from last year with half of them on the defense. The Jags defensive unit ranked second in the Sun Belt in yards allowed per game, a very impressive stat for a first-year FBS transitional team. Enrique Williams is the leading returning tackler who ranked second on the squad last season and finished in the top-10 of the conference with 105 tackles last season. Alex Page, who is on the Rotary Lombardi Award Watch list, returns for his senior season after posting 64 tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss last season.
Terrell Brigham recorded 71 tackles last season with five pass breakups and two fumble recoveries. Clifton Crews added 49 tackles and Darrius Morrow with 43 tackles all return.
Offensively the Jags return their top five receivers. Jereme Jones had a season-record 45 receptions last season with 513 yards and seven touchdowns. Bryant Lavender caught a career-best 41 passes for 378 yards. Corey Besteda caught 28 passes, T.J. Glover caught 27 and preseason all-conference selection Wes Saxton caught 26 passes last season.
Ross Metheny returns as the starting quarterback after earning the spot around midseason last year. His junior season saw him post 189-of-345 for 2,148 yards and 12 touchdowns last season to set season records for completions, yards and touchdowns passing.
The backfield will look different with JuCo transfers Jay Jones and Cris Dinham but the familiar faces of Kendall Houston, Terrance Timmons and Julien Valentin.
T.J. Glover returns to special teams after ranking in the top-5 in the Sun Belt in both punt and kick returns last season.
Ladd-Peebles Stadium parking lot will open at noon for tailgating. At 4:10pm the players and staff arrive for the Jaguar Prowl across the south side of the Stadium as they enter the stadium. At 4:30pm the gates will open to the stadium and kickoff is slated for 6:30pm.
Shuttle service is available for $2.50 (round trip) and will run beginning at 2:30pm continuously through 90 minutes after the conclusion of the game. Parking for the shuttle is in the south parking lot at Bel Air Mall with USA providing security over the lot until the last shuttle runs.
Fans are encouraged to wear RED for the game as the team will be wearing their traditional home color in their new stylized red jerseys with white pants. The first 10,000 in the gates will receive a red rally towel.
The game will be broadcast nationally by ESPN3. WNSP will broadcast on 105.5FM in the Mobile area as well as worldwide at www.wnsp.com.
The Jags are 3-1 in season openers and 2-0 in Thursday night games.