South Alabama Defeats Tulane 41-39 In The Superdome
Hard work pays off.
After the season opening loss to Southern Utah, the Jags refocused and went through a week of hard nosed workouts to prepare for their trip to New Orleans. They were determined to prove they are a better team than what the fans saw on Thursday night against the Thunderbirds.
They did just that.
“That was a great win for a lot of reasons,” head coach Joey Jones said after the game. “We struggled last week at the end of the game. We played well for three-and-a-half quarters but then lost it. In this game we played well, but then they came back and we bowed up and won it. That’s a sweet way to win a ballgame. Tulane is a much improved team.”
“But my hat’s off to my staff,” Jones continued. “We worked 16 hours a day since last Thursday night because we care about these players. And these players care about this team. They came and worked, we had a great practice week. They did everything we asked them, never dropped their heads and they came out and won the ballgame today. That’s what it’s all about. That is a good life lesson for them there.”
The Jaguars got started early when Jay Jones picked up 29 yards on the first play from scrimmage. After an incomplete pass, Metheny would gain 11 yards on a quarterback draw. Metheny would cut up the middle again and race in for a 35 yard touchdown to take a 7-0 lead in only 47 seconds of play.
Tulane responded with passes from Nick Montana to Rob Kelley for 15 yards, Ryan Grant for eight but Terrell Brigham would force a fumble that would be recovered by Montell Garner at the Tulane 46 yard line. The second possession would not yield points for the Jaguar though, as Cris Dinham could only manage eight yards on 3rd and 11 and would lose two yards on fourth down to turn the ball over on downs.
After a three and out by the Jaguar defense, Ross Metheny and the Jaguar offense would begin at their own 40 after a 16 yard punt by Tulane. Metheny started the drive with a five yard run, but a personal foul on Sam Scofield would add 15 yards to put the Jags in Tulane territory at the 40 yard line. Metheny would then connect with Wes Saxton for 26 yards before connecting with Shavarez Smith for the 14 yard touchdown to take a 14-0 lead with 10:18 left in the opening quarter. The drive spanned three plays covering 60 yards in 56 seconds.
The Green Wave would respond on their next possession. Montana would hit Grant for a 41 yard gain with Orleans Darkwa capping it off with a run over right tackle for two yards for the touchdown to cut the Jaguar lead in half at 14-7 with 5:56 left in the first quarter.
South Alabama would get it back on their next possession. Dinham opened the series with a four yard rush to the Jaguar 29 before Metheny went back to his tight end Wes Saxton for 24 yards down the sideline to the Tulane 47 yard line. After a short gain by Dinham again, Metheny would run on back to back plays for seven and five yards. A couple plays later, facing 3rd and 3 at the Tulane 30 yard line, Metheny would connect with Davin Hawkins for his first career touchdown reception as the Jags lead extends to 21-7.
The Jaguar defense would force a punt on Tulane’s next possession. Metheny would open the Jaguars drive on the USA 20 yard line and would quickly throw a strike to Danny Woodson for 41 yards to the Tulane 39 yard line. Metheny’s pass intended for Bryant Lavender would fall incomplete, however a pass interference call would would move the ball down to the Tulane 24 yard line. Kendall Houston would end the quarter with a four yard rush up the middle to the Tulane 20. Metheny would find Saxton open on 3rd and 6 to get the first down at the Tulane 12 yard line. After an incomplete pass, Metheny would run for 12 yards on a quarterback draw for the touchdown and a three score lead at 28-7 with 13:52 left in the second quarter.
The Green Wave would piece together an 11 play, 80 yard drive for a touchdown to cut the Jaguar lead to 28-14 with 10:23 left in the game.
On the kickoff, T.J. Glover took the ball out of the end zone and only got out to the 12 yard line, but an illegal block would move it back to the Jaguar 6 yard line. USA managed one first down before being forced to punt from their 17 yard line. However, a bad snap would get past Scott Garber, but a heads-up play by him prevented a touchdown and only gave Tulane two points on a safety to make the score 28-16.
The Jags defense would force a three-and-out on the next Tulane possession, but on the second down play, Randon Carnathan would be injured and did not return to the game. More on his injury below.
T.J. Glover would return the punt 27 yards from the Jaguar 14 to the 41 to start their possession. On the first play, with Brandon Bridge in at quarterback, the Jags would be flagged for a false start to back them up to five yards. Jay Jones would get it back and then some with a 13 yard rush up the middle just short of midfield. Two plays later on 2nd and 9, the offense would be flagged for another false start to make it 2nd and 14 and coach Jones would call a time out to settle his offense down. The Jags would be forced to punt two plays later. Garber’s 46 yard punt would go into the endzone for a touchback with 3:06 left until halftime.
Tulane would open their possession with another deep pass from Montana to Grant for 45 yards to get to the Jaguar 35 yard line. The Jaguar defense would hold the Green Wave to a 47 yard field goal as Tulane cut Jaguar lead to 28-19 with 1:31 left until halftime.
Starting from their own 25 after the touchback on the kickoff, Jay Jones would rush for five yards on back-to-back plays as it looked like Coach Jones and Coach Matthews were content to run out the clock on the half. But then Metheny would find Jereme Jones for an 18 yard gain to the Tulane 47 yard line. The offense would run to the line to spike the ball as the Jags only had one time out with 14 seconds left till halftime. Metheny would then go back to Saxton again for 10 more yards to the Tulane 37 with :07 seconds left and they would call their final time out. Metheny would connect with Saxton one more time for eight yards and he would get out of bounds at the Tulane 29 yard line. Aleem Sunanon would make the 46 yard field goal attempt to lead the Jaguars into the lockerroom with a 31-19 lead at halftime.
Tulane would begin the second half with Dante Butler returning the kickoff from the endzone to the 19 yard line before Rush Hendrix would take him down. A false start would back them up to their own 14 yard line. On 3rd and 14, Romelle Jones would sack Montana for a six yard loss at the Tulane 9 yard line.
The Jags would have Glover’s 12 yard punt return brought back as E.J. May was flagged for an illegal block to start a bad possession for the Jaguars. Two plays later on 3rd and 5 at the Tulane 48 yard line, Metheny’s pass would bounce off of Bryant Lavender’s chest and would be intercepted by Nico Marley and returned 30 yards to the Jaguar 30 yard line, but a personal foul would move the ball to the 15 yard line. Tulane would score a touchdown three plays later when Darkwa would take it in from one yard out to cut the Jaguar lead to 31-26 with 11:42 left in the 3rd quarter.
On the ensuing possession for the Jaguars, facing 3rd and 8 from the Jaguar 27, Metheny would find Jereme Jones across the middle for 11 yards and a first down. But two plays later Metheny, running the read option, would fumble the exchange with Dinham that would be recovered by Marley at the Jaguar 39 yard line. The Jags would force an incompletion by Montana on 4th and 2 at the Jaguar 31 to give the offense the ball back on downs with 8:47 left in the 3rd quarter.
Metheny would start the possession with a 12 yard run before connecting with Saxton on back-to-back passes for 12 and 4 yards. But on 3rd and 5 at the Tulane 40, Metheny would be flushed from the pocket and try to float a pass to Saxton on the right sideline, but a leaping defender would pick it off and return it 25 yards to the Jaguar 40 before offensive lineman Drew Dearman forced him out of bounds saving a touchdown.
Montana would connect with Grant again for a 40 yard touchdown pass on their first play. Grant would be flagged for excessive celebration and the Jags would be flagged for roughing the passer. The defensive penalty was enforced on the kickoff while the celebration penalty was enforced on the PAT. Tulane would get their first and only lead of the game at 33-31 with 6:35 left in the 3rd quarter.
The Jags would drive 17 yards before being forced to punt which was fair caught at the Tulane 20 yard line. On 3rd and 8 from their own 22, Montana was sacked for a 10 yard loss by Alex Page. The special teams unit stepped up to help the offense as Qudarius Ford blocked the Tulane punt and Terrance Timmons would recover it in the endzone for a Jaguar touchdown to give the Jags the lead once again at 38-33 with 1:13 left in the 3rd quarter.
The Tulane and the Jaguars next possession would be three-and-out’s. Tulane’s next possession would be a disaster. A nine yard rush by Kelley would come back on a holding call to make it 1st and 20 at the Tulane 45. A bad snap would cause them to lose six more yards for a 2nd and 26 at their own 39 yard line. Montana’s screen pass to Butler would be sniffed out by Romelle Jones for a four yard loss to make it 3rd and 30 at their own 35. Clifton Crews would then sack Montana for another six yard loss to make it 4th and 36 from the Tulane 29.
The Tulane punt would be fielded at the Jaguar 25 by Glover and returned one yard, but Montell Garner would be flagged for a personal foul to move it back to the Jaguar 13 yard line with 10:43 left in the game.
The Jags would go three and out again and Scott Garber’s 45 yard punt would be returned only three yards to put the ball at the Green Wave 45 yard line. Montana would try another deep pass but Roman Buchanan would pick him off at the Jaguar 16 yard line and it would be upheld after a review.
The Jags would take over at their own 16 yard line with 9:46 left in the game and a 38-33 lead. Metheny would open up with a 15 yard completion from Metheny to Davin Hawkins but he would fumble it out of bounds at the Jaguar 31 yard line. Then Metheny would load up again and connect with Shavarez Smith for a big 43 yard gain to the Tulane 26 yard line. After a rush by Dinham for no gain and an incomplete pass, the Jags faced 3rd and 10. Metheny would hand it off to Dinham who took it over left end and would go out of bounds after a 14 yard gain to the Tulane 12 yard line and another South Alabama first down. Jay Jones would run off left end for eight more yards to the Tulane 4 yard line. Houston would lose two on a rush, then on 3rd down Metheny’s pass to Jereme Jones would fall incomplete. Coach Jones would opt to take points and kick a 23 yard field goal to put the Jags up 41-33 with 6:07 left in the game.
Brandon McKee’s kickoff would be fielded at the one yard line and David Hawkins would bring down the Green Wave returner at the 18 yard line. Montana would find Matt Marfisi for 18 yards to the Tulane 36. After a deep pass intended for Grant fell incomplete, he came right back to Grant for nine yards on the sideline. Darkwa would get the first down on 3rd and 1 by getting two yards. Montana, after an incomplete pass, would find Xavier Rush for 10 yards and another first down. A run by Montana would go for 11 yards to get into Jaguar territory at the 43 yard line. A screen pass to Kelley would gain six yards, then a slant pass to Sydie London would gain three more yards to the Jaguar 23. Two plays later Montana would complete a pass to Rush for 10 more yards to the Jaguar 12 yard line. After a draw play only gained two yards to the Jaguar 10 yard line, Tulane would take a time out with 1:31 left in the game. After lining up, the Jags would take a time out to adjust their defense. On 2nd and 8 at the Jaguar 10 yard line, Montana’s pass appeared to be intercepted by Roman Buchanan, but after a review it was called an incomplete pass. On the next play Montana would hit Grant for a 10 yard touchdown to draw them within a two point conversion with 1:19 left in the game.
On the two point play, Montana was pressured out of the pocket to the right sideline when the Jaguars brought a blitz, he would put up a throw but it would be intercepted by Maleki Harris leaving the Jaguars up 41-39. The Jags would use their final time out to set up for the onsides kick. The kick would go nine yards and would be recovered by Bryant Lavender at the Tulane 44 yard line. The Jags could finally end the game with the victory formation.
South Alabama put up great offensive numbers. They gained 328 yard in the first half, which almost equaled the the 335 yards they gained in the whole game against Southern Utah in the previous game.
The Jags ended the game with 465 total yards of offense, 297 yards through the air and 168 on the ground. USA gained 25 first downs to Tulane’s 20. Tulane ended with a slight edge time of possession with 30:03 to USA’s 29:57.
Ross Metheny ended the game as the leading rusher with 75 yards on 11 attempts and two touchdowns. Jay Jones gained 64 yards on 11 carries, Dinham added 28 yards on 10 carries and Houston had 17 yards on 7 carries.
Tulane’s Orleans Darkwa rushed 10 times for 32 yards and two touchdowns.
Ross Metheny went 19-of-30 for 290 yards and two touchdowns while taking two sacks and two interceptions. Bridge was 1-of-2 for seven yards.
Nick Montana went 29-of-47 for 327 yards and three touchdowns and one interception.
Wes Saxton led the Jaguars with 92 yards on 7 catches. Jereme Jones added four catches for 50 yards, Danny Woodson also had 50 yards on three catches. Shavarez Smith gained 57 yards on two catches with a touchdown. Davin Hawkins caught two passes for 45 yards and his first career touchdown as a Jaguar. Two other Jags had catches as well.
Tulane’s highly touted receiver lived up to his billing with 187 yards on 14 catches and two touchdowns. Xavier Rush was the next closest with 34 yards on three catches.
Defensively, Qudarius Ford led the Jags with 8 total tackles, two pass breakups and a punt block. Romelle Jones and Terrell Brigham both added seven stops with Jones collecting two tackles for loss and one sack. Clifton Crews and Alex Page both had a sack as well. Roman Buchanan had the only interception for the Jaguar defense.
Tulane’s Sam Scofield led all tacklers with 15 total, 13 solo and two for loss. Robertson added 11 tackles, two for loss and a sack for the Green Wave.
South Alabama scored touchdowns on four of their first five drives.
Tulane rebounded early in the second half by turning three Jaguar turnovers into 14 points to take the lead on the Jags.
Qudarius Ford said after the game, “We practiced that punt block all week. We knew they weren’t going to be ready for it. When the coaches called it, I knew it was going to work. We just executed. We saw how the wings always flared out, and it left the underneath gap wide open. I knew when I got through that it was money.”
It was the first time since Tennessee-Martin on October 15, 2011 that the Jaguar offense has put together multiple scoring drives that were under a minute.
The 21-7 first quarter marked the most point production by the Jaguars in the first quarter of a game since they scored 20 against Lamar on September 10, 2011. They gained 245 yards and 11 first downs in the opening quarter.
The 465 yards of total offense is the most against an FBS school in the University’s short history. Metheny’s four scores is another school-record.
“We were just taking what they gave us and kept rolling,” Ross Metheny stated after the game. “We made the plays tonight, and that’s what our offense is set up to do. We put ourselves in position to make the plays, we just have to make them. We struggled with that a little last year and last week as well. But we finally made the plays and did what we were supposed to do tonight.”
“We got up big early,” Metheny continued. “The offense played great the first half, probably the best offensive half we have had. Then we came out and had three turnovers fairly quickly in the second half, but the defense was playing really good in the second half. We had to have a big play, and we blocked the punt. The punt return staff did a great job of coming up with that punt block. It was something we saw on film, and it worked just right. You have to make those plays in order to win big games and we did it.”
“It’s the biggest win we’ve ever had,” Jones stated. “We have a lot of games coming that we can win. Winning is a habit. We want our guys to win, and they have done that. I’m so proud of the way they fought back, and fought against the fact we lost last week late in the game and came out here and won a tough game on the road.”
“Tulane is a much-improved team, and they have a good football program,” he continued. “They’re going to do well in Conference USA. For us to come on the road and win one like that is big for the South Alabama football program. Curtis Johnson (Tulane head coach), his staff and the players acted first class the entire game. My hat’s off to them. They are the kind of team you want to play against, because they play the game the right way.”
Coach Jones spoke about true freshman Roman Buchanan by saying, “Coming in and playing like that in Division I football as a true freshman is big. We know he’s a great player, and he’s going to be a great one in the future for sure.”
Coach Jones also spoke about stopping the two-point conversion at the end of the game. He said, “That was big. Most teams want to sprint out to the right, and I went up to coach Sherrer and asked him if we were going to bring edge pressure and he said, ‘We’re going to bring everybody.’ We brought an all-out blitz and pressured the quarterback, and he couldn’t really get his feet set to throw the ball. It was a great call by coach Sherrer.”
When asked if he would like to see a series between the two schools, Jones replied, “I would love for it to be. Two hours away; we’d love to have a rivalry with them in the future.”
However the two teams are not scheduled to play again until October 10, 2020 when Tulane travels to Mobile.
Randon Carnathan’s injury turned out to be some sort of Achilles heel injury and was in a protective boot on the sidelines when he returned to the sideline. The extent of his injury is unknown
JuCo tranfer Jerome McClain came out of the game with a concussion. He will have to clear medical tests before he will be allowed to return to practice or games.
Losing two defensive linemen will hurt their depth at that position.
Jereme Jones consecutive games with a catch streak is up to 29 now.
South Alabama will open Sun Belt play on Saturday when they play Western Kentucky for the first time. The game will feature Bobby Petrino’s up-tempo offense that they used to defeat Kentucky on the road to open the season. South Alabama and Western Kentucky is set to kick off at 6:30pm at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
Come out and support your Jaguars in this key Sun Belt game. Go Jags!