South Alabama Gets Bowl Eligible With 30-8 Win Over Louisiana-Lafayette
Three weeks ago South Alabama’s chances to get bowl eligible was looking dire. They had just lost their third consecutive game to fall to 3-6 on the season and had just been ran all over by Navy’s triple option attack. They were facing three consecutive Sun Belt teams that were must-win games if they were to hold onto any hope for a bowl bid.
They handled the first two games handily so it came down to last night’s regular season finale against conference leader Louisiana-Lafayette in order to get bowl eligible for the first time in their short five-year history and in their first year eligible for post-season play.
With the 30-8 win the Jags end the regular season 6-6 overall and 4-3 in Sun Belt play. With the 6-6 record, South Alabama became bowl eligible in their first season as a full NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision member after defeating the conference co-champion. Lousiana-Lafayette finishes the regular season 8-4 overall and 5-2 in Sun Belt play. They will play in the R+L Carriers Bowl in New Orleans at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on December 21.
This Jaguar team came out ready to play and did not resemble the same team I have watched play all season long. They came out with a fire that was unequaled on the playing field.
“Our guys had a look in their eyes, they wanted to get to a bowl. That was one of our goals this season,” explained South Alabama head coach Joey Jones after the game. “It was the mindset ever since we were 3-6.”
“The first thing I did after the game was talk to the team and tell them how proud I am of them and the way they turned the season around. They fought through a lot of tough things. The Lord taught us a lot this year from the standpoint of persevering through trials. There was a time when everyone was down on us and we had to fight through that. But they fought every day.
They came out to practice and fought through that time, and I told them to remember that the rest of their lives. They are going to face times in life when things are going to get tough, and they can remember back to this year and how they fought back from 3‐6 and ended 6‐6 and bowl eligible in our first year in Division I. I am so proud of them for doing that.”
“My hat’s off to our defense,” Jones said about his team jumping out to an early lead. “They have played great all year, but especially these last three games, they ahve played light out. I’m really proud of those guys. Offensively, when we had those opportunities to punch it in, we did. It was just a total team effort, offensively, defensively and special teams. We kind of got conservative in the second half because I didn’t want to turn it over. But my hat’s off to Lousiana-Lafayette, those guys are the class of the league and have been the last few years. We certainly beat a very quality opponent…they have kind of set the standard in this league.”
“I wish we had playoffs because we’re pretty hot right now,” Jones said about the progression of the team. “We’re 6‐6 and bowl eligible, and there has to be somebody out there that would take this team in a bowl. If you look at our story and how we came back at the end of the year in our first year in Division I, we would be a great story for some bowl somewhere. There are some bowls that are going to miss out if they
don’t take us because we’re playing really well right now. I’m so proud of our team and where we are. We’re so much better this year, and three or four times better than we were last year. We’ve really improved. Our program is going in the right direction.”
They have done what they could on the field to earn a bowl invitation, now they wait out selection Sunday and hope that USA Director of Athletics Joel Erdmann gets a call extending an invitation. Currently, there is some buzz on social media for the Little Ceaser’s Pizza Bown in Detroit, Michigan. However, until an official announcement is made by the school or a bowl game, nothing is finalized.
South Alabama did a number of the top rushing team in the conference by holding them to 69 yards on 33 attempts. Their league leading offense was also held to a mere 212 yards of total offense in the game with 12 first downs.
The Jags gained 22 first downs with 363 total offensive yards, 192 of them coming on the ground. Jay Jones led the rushing attack with 105 yards on 19 carries. Metheny rushed for 46 yards on 16 carries, Timmons added 28 yards, Houston added 18 yards on 9 carries with two touchdowns.
Metheny finished his final regular season game with the Jaguars by going 13-of-23 for 171 yards.
Wes Saxton finished the game with 88 yards receiving on five catches. Shavarez Smith had 40 yards on three catches, Jereme Jones extended his consecutive games streak with 18 yards on two catches. Bryant Lavender, Jake Howton and T.J. Glover all caught a pass as well.
Senior Scott Garber punted six times for an average of 37.7 yards.
Enrique Williams finished with eight total tackles and a tackle for loss. Pat Moore finished with seven tackles and two tackles for loss. Clifton Crews, Jesse Kelley and Alex Page each recorded a sack and each finished with three tackles each.
Romelle Jones was credited with three tackles though his impact was felt througout the game as he and the rest of the defensive front filled running lanes and got pressure on the three quarterbacks who played for the Cajuns.
South Alabama was 5-of-16 on third down conversions while their defense held Lafayette to only 2-of-13 on third down.
Keep reading below for more coverage of the game.
It didn’t take long for the Jaguars to begin showing what they were made of. The Jaguar defense held the conference leading rushing attack of the Cajuns in check.
After getting the ball on downs near midfield, the Jags would drive and score a 40-yard field goal to get on the board first. But turnovers would be the true defining factor in the first half.
On Lafayette’s first possession after the score, Romelle Jones would make his way into the backfield and force a fumble and recover it at the Cajuns 28 yard line. Jay Jones would rush for five and 22 yards on back-to-back carries before Kendall Houston’s number was called and he would carry it into the end zone for the touchdown to give the Jags a 10-0 lead with 4:45 left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, ULL’s Torrey Pierce fielded it at the 17 and returned it 10 yards to the 27 before Bryson James forced another fumble which was recovered by Charles Harris at the Lafayette 30 yard line.
Metheny opened the possession with a 24 yard completion to Wes Saxton to set up Kendall Houston to carry twice with the final covering four yards for his second touchdown of the game. With 3:29 left in the opening quarter the Jags had a commanding lead 17-0.
Lafayette would be forced to punt on their next possession after they got to midfield. Starting at their own 16, Metheny and the offense continued thier march. Jay Jones opened with an 11 yard rush followed by a 27 yard completion from Metheny to Shavarez Smith to get into Cajun territory again as the opening quarter came to an end.
South would continue driving until they got down to the one yard line where the Lafayette defense finally stiffened and refused to allow Houston into the end zone for a third time in the game. Coach Jones settled for a 19-yard field goal by Sunanon with 10:16 left in the second quarter. The drive spanned 12 plays and 83 yards and took 5:35 off the clock.
Lafayette would drive 31 yards in 10 plays over 5:11 before being forced to punt from the Jaguar 44 yard line. Glover would do an excellent acting job getting all of the Cajuns away from the ball and allowing it to hit and roll into the end zone for a touchback.
Metheny would open their drive with a 14 yard pass to Smith which would be followed up with runs by Metheny for 12, 2 and 3 yards respectively. Then on 3rd and 5 at the Lafayette 49, Metheny found Jake Howton open for six yards and a first down. After setting it up for several plays, offensive coordinator recognized a mismatch with Wes Saxton and dialed up a play for him. Saxton would run a seam route and would be wide open down the middle of the field, Metheny would deliver a great ball and Saxton would put the Jags at the Cajun 7 yard line for a 36 yard gain. The Jags would not manage to get into the end zone, but Aleem Sunanon added his third field goal of the game from extra point distance to put the Jags up 23-0 with 0:55 left in the half.
But the scoring was not over just yet.
Lafayette started at their own 30 yard line after a three yard kickoff return. Haack would connect with a receiver for nine yards as the Cajuns were hoping to get something going to put points on the board before halftime. But on the second play cornerback Qudarius Ford would read Haack’s eyes and step in front of the receiver he was throwing to on the left sideline for the interception and he would return it 39 yards for a touchdown to put the Jags up 30-0 with 39 seconds left until halftime.
The second half was just steady as they go for the Jaguars as Coach Jones was satisfied to cruise to victory in the cold, windy night.
Lafayette finally got a drive going with 7:07 left in the fourth quarter. Facing 4th and 1 at their own 39, Harris would rush for 14 into Jaguar territory. This set up quarterback Jalen Nixon to find Ricky Johnson for a 47 yard touchdown to break the shutout. Nixon would run on the two-point conversion to put the score at 30-8.
An unsuccessful onsides kick would give the Jags the ball at their own 40 after an illegal touching call on Lafayette as they touched the ball prior to it traveling 10 yards.
On the next drive the Coach Jones pulled out the starting offensive players one at a time beginning with Ross Metheny, who received an ovation from the Jaguar fans who stuck out the cold, damp weather. Center Matt Calcagnini would be pulled next, but not until after Terrance Timmons rushed around the right side for 25 yards plus a personal foul put the Jaguars at the Cajun 19 yard line. Calcagnini also received an ovation.
The final senior pulled from the game that was announced was Rush Hendrix who also got a big cheer from the crowd.
The coaching staff was content to keep the ball on the ground and running the clock until they turned it over on downs at the Cajuns 17 yard line with 2:21 left in the game.
Lafayette did not give up as they continued to push the ball down the field. On 4th and 19 at their own 49, Nixon’s pass would be intercepted by Charles Watson, but a roughing the passer call would overturn the turnover and give the Cajuns a first down. But two plays later Watson would get his revenge as he picked off Nixon at the Jaguar 27 and returned it eight yards to the 35 yard line.
Bridge would kneel on the ball to seemingly end the game, but a moment of inexperience had him chunk the ball downfield thinking the game was over, but instead drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. He would kneel on the ball again after Louisiana-Lafayette declined the 10 second runoff to finally end the game.