South Alabama opens 2014 with 23-13 win over Kent State

September 7, 2014 · By · Filed Under Football 

USA_vs_KentStateSouth Alabama used an early lead and a late touchdown to hold off Kent State for a 23-13 win on Saturday.

After building a 16-0 advantage midway through the second quarter, the Jags offense went cold while the Kent State offense found a way to move the ball and put points on the board. But most of all, the Jags found a way to finish the game.

The scoring began when Kent State quarterback Colin Reardon was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone resulting in a safety. Then after a good return of the free kick, the Jaguar offense, aided with good field position on their own 46 yard line, got into gear and drove down to the KSU 4 yard line but would back up to the 9 on a penalty. Then Brandon Bridge’s pass would be deflected and seemingly intercepted by Nate Holley in the end zone, but pass interference would be called placing the ball at the 2 yard line with a fresh set of downs. Two plays later Bridge would connect with Shavarez Smith for a one-yard touchdown to take a 9-0 advantage.

Approaching midway through the second quarter, Bridge would hook up with Marvin Shinn for a 58-yard pass down the left sideline and called down at the 1 yard line. Jay Jones would punch it in on the next play to give the Jags a 16-0 lead.

Kent State would get on the board a minute-and-a-half before halftime on a 13 play, 69 yard drive capped off by an eight yard touchdown pass from Reardon to Nick Holley in the left flat. The two-point conversion would fail leaving the Golden Flashes trailing 16-6 at halftime.

The third quarter would be scoreless, but towards the end Kent State was starting to move the ball. Then on the first play of the fourth quarter, Reardon connects with Casey Pierce for a 44-yard catch and run for a touchdown to draw within three points, 16-13.

Midway through the final quarter, Kent State’s drive stalls at the Jaguar 15 so they set up for a game-tying field goal attempt from 32 yards out. Lining up on the left hash, Anthony Melchiori’s attempt would stay left giving the Jaguars defense a big sigh of relief and a resurgence of energy which helped them to stop the final two Kent State drives of the game.

After taking over from the missed field goal and aided by an unsportsmanlike conduct call after the try, the Jags started at their own 35 yard line with just over four minutes left in the game.

A steady dose of Jay Jones would help to bleed the clock with a pair of first downs. Then, facing third-and-six on the KSU 23 yard line, the senior would break a 23 yard touchdown run all but sealing the game.

On the ensuing possession, to take any chance of a comeback away, Montell Garner would pick off Reardon’s pass and allowing Bridge to simply kneel on the ball to run out the clock.

The Jaguar defense held Kent State to 277 yards on 68 plays. In the last four games dating back to the end of the 2013 season the Jaguar defense has not allowed an opponent to gain over 300 yards during that stretch.

Davin Hawkins, in his first start, led the defense with nine stops and two passes broken up. Roman Buchanan, Maleki Harris, Akeem Lewis and Theo Rich all had four stops each. Terrell Brigham had three passes broken up and a forced fumble. Jimmie Gipson III had two tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries.

Jay Jones rushed for over 100-yards for the third consecutive time dating back to the 2013 season. He led all rushers with 102 yards on 21 carries. Kendall Houston added 46 yards on 13 carries and Bridge added 41 as the Jags finished with 186 yards on the ground.

Bridge went 15-of-25 for 161 yards and a touchdown in his first start behind center. Jereme Jones, Shavarez Smith and Danny Woodson all caught three passes each to lead the receivers. Shinn led with the most yards with 58 on his one reception.

Brandon McKee got the start at punter with a school-record 10 punts in the game and a 42.9 yard average. He also had two kicks downed inside the 20-yard line.

“This is a big win for us on the road,” head coach Joey Jones stated. “We came up here last time and didn’t play well, but we came out and really played well early in the game. The thing I am most proud of is we finished the game. In our first game last year we let someone drive and score, and now look at the difference, just that mentality of we’re not going to get beat late in the game. I’m so proud of the defense for stopping them, and proud of the offense for driving down and scoring late in the game.”

“My hat’s off to our players who have really bought in to what we’re doing,” Jones continued. “We have some things we can work on, and that’s the thing about football, you always have things you can work on.”

The Jaguars will return to practice on Sunday as they prepare to host Mississippi State on Saturday for their home opener at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 3pm and will be televised on ESPNews nationally.

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