Jags Defeat ULM Behind Solid Defensive Effort
The University of South Alabama football team kept their bowl chances alive after a record-setting defensive effort against the University of Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks on Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The team set a school record with nine sacks in the contest with Pat Moore and Montavious Williams each collecting 2.5 sacks and allowing a season-low 274 yards in the 36-14 win.
Ross Metheny also became the first Jaguar in school history to throw and rush for over 100 yards in a single game as the threw for 194 yards and rushed for 128 yards on 16 carries, including a game-sealing 63 yard scamper down the left sidelines in the fourth quarter for a touchdown.
The win improves the Jaguars record to 4-6 overall and 2-3 in Sun Belt play while snapping a three-game losing skid. The Warhawks fell to 5-6 overall and 3-3 in SBC play, their second-consecutive loss.
The Jaguars first two scores came off the toe of redshirt freshman Aleem Sunanon. His first came with about six-and-a-half minutes left in the first quarter when he connected on a 43 yard kick to cap off an eight-play drive that began with a 17 yard rush by Metheny.
On the Jaguars next possession, Metheny would connect with Shavarez Smith for a 43 yard reception to set up the second field goal. With about three-and-a-half minutes left in the first quarter, Sunanon connected from 45 yards out to give South Alabama a 6-0 advantage.
ULM took the lead after an 11-play, 80 yard drive when Kolton Browning caught the Jaguars blitzing and split the defenders and scampered in from six yard out with two-and-a-half minutes into the second quarter.
However the Jaguars would respond. Just over three-minutes later, Metheny found Shavarez Smith again, this time for a 29-yard touchdown where the defender initially had the ball, but Smith took it away to secure the touchdown. The drive was highlighted not only by Smith’s catch, but a 17 yard completion from Metheny to Jereme Jones and also a reverse to Jake Howton who threw a 13-yard completion to Metheny to keep the drive alive. The point-after attempt was fumbled so the Jaguar lead was 12-7.
Just before halftime, the Jaguars were driving with big gains by Jay Jones and Ross Metheny for 17 and 18 yards respectively. The team moved into the red zone when Smith drew a pass interference penalty on ULM in the end zone. The drive was capped off by a highlight-reel touchdown reception by Jereme Jones to put the Jaguars up 19-7 at halftime.
Monroe struck in the second half with a six-play, 55 yard drive that was capped off by a 44-yard touchdown strike from Browning to Rashon Ceaser. This drew the Warhawks within five points 19-14.
The Jaguars had an answer though, as they drove 75 yards in 11 plays in a little over four minutes. A 28-yard completion to Bryant Lavender on 3rd and 7 put the Jaguars into Warhawk territory. Smith’s 18 yard reception on the drive put the Jags in the red zone and Ryan Onkka’s first career reception for a two yard touchdown put the Jaguars on the board 26-14.
Sunanon would add another field goal to pad the lead at 29-14. Then Metheny would close out the scoring with his 63 yard touchdown run with about three-and-a-half minutes left in the game.
South Alabama would outgain the Warhawks 424 to 274 for the game. The Jaguar defense would only allow 71 yards rushing in the game and 203 yards passing.
Offensively, the Jaguars gained 25 first downs and converted nine of their 16 third-down attempts.
Metheny led the way on the ground with 128 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. Jay Jones added 66 yards on 17 carries. Kendall Houston added 35 yards on eight carries.
Lavender caught four passes for 46 yards, Jereme Jones caught four for 41 yards and a touchdown. Shavarez Smith caught three for 90 yards and a touchdown. Five other Jaguars caught a pass including Metheny for 13 yards and Ryan Onkka’s first career reception and his first touchdown.
Metheny went 15-of-26 for 194 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Jake Howton completed his only passing attempt for 13 yards.
Donald Centarius led the Warhawk rushing game with 33 yards on 10 carries. Browning gained a total of 69 yards rushing, but lost 47 yards for a net gain of 22 yards rushing on 23 carries. Browning also went 18-of-26 for 196 yards and a touchdown.
Rashon Ceaser caught nine passes for 138 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, Alex Page had a total of 10 tackles with one sack for six yards and two tackles-for-loss for eight yards. Enrique Williams had nine tackles with 1.5 TFL’s. Montavious Williams had 2.5 sacks for 15 yards. Pat Moore had 2.5 sacks for seven yards and 3.5 TFL in the game. Jerome McClain added two sacks for 11 yards and Romelle Jones had a sack for six yards.
Dating back to Kent State, Aleem Sunanon is a perfect 8-for-8 on field goal attempts.
“First of all I want to say how proud I am of my players, the staff and everyone involved in the football organization,” head coach Joey Jones began his post-game remarks. “It takes a lot of people to have success in a game like this, but what I’m most proud of is the fact that we’ve had to fight through so many things this year. I can’t tell you how much these guys mean to me, because they’ve given everything they’ve had to make this program go. A lot of players and coaches would quit when you get beat in close games throughout the year like we have. So my hat’s off to those guys for how they fought through it and just kept getting better. We played a good game tonight against a really good opponent, and my hat’s off to the players and staff.”
“I have never seen them play quite like that,” he continued as he spoke about the defensive effort. “They had a look in their eyes before the game, I knew they were going to be ready to play. The defensive staff did a great job preparing them. You have to get after the quarterback to beat a team like ULM. Kolton Browning is an unbelievable player but he just never felt comfortable the whole night, and I thought that was the difference in the game.”
“When your number gets called, you’ve just got to execute at a high level,” quarterback Ross Metheny said. “My supporting cast makes my job a lot easier. Shavarez made some awesome plays out there today. When you have trust in those guys, it just makes my job easier.”
“We kind of put ourselves in a hole with all those close losses,” stated Metheny. “We’ve got to take it one game at a time. We won the first, we need to win the second and put ourselves in a good situation to win the third. We took care of number one tonight.”
“We got man-handled on both sides of the football up front,” explained Louisiana-Monroe head coach Todd Berry. “A little bit of the reason was because of the offensive line not giving us enough time and the play of the young receivers. We have an illness going through our team right now and unfortunately, it hit a couple of our back up offensive linemen and they weren’t able to play, so we had some guys out there having to limp around. We got very tired and South Alabama kept rolling fresh bodies in and made a lot of plays on us.”
“Every person needs hope in their life, and we have hope now,” Joey Jones explained. “We have a chance to play for a bowl game, and that’s all you can ask for. That’s something I’ve been praying for for these young men. We’ve been through a tough time. I think our guys have learned a life lesson, because they have had to fight through so much adversity. To come back and be successful through that is a testament to those guys and what they’ve done.”
South Alabama will travel to Atlanta for a showdown against Georgia State in the Georgia Dome on Saturday, November 30. This is the Jaguar’s final road game of the regular season with kickoff set for 1pm CST.