Jags Earn Bowl Eligibility, Inside Track to Bowl Game with 24-20 Win over Texas State in final seconds

November 16, 2014 · By · Filed Under Football, NCAA, Sun Belt Conference 
South Alabama gathers around Colton Sawyer at midfield prior to kickoff against Texas State.

South Alabama gathers around Colton Sawyer at midfield prior to kickoff against Texas State.

The University of South Alabama football team overcame injuries, turnovers, allowing 10 points in the first quarter, and a last minute drive by Texas State to hold on for a 24-20 win to close out Sun Belt play.

The game could not have started worse for the Jaguar offense. Three-consecutive fumbles in their own territory yielded 10 points for the Bobcats in the first quarter.

“We had three turnovers in the first quarter, and that wasn’t good, but we were only down 10 points,” head coach Joey Jones explained. “I felt pretty fortunate to be in that situation. The defense came out and fought as they always do.”

The first turnover occurred at the Jaguar 44 and the bobcats took advantage by converting on 3rd and 12 with a 16 yard completion to keep the drive alive after which they would eventually punch it in for the first points of the game.

On the next Jaguar drive Jerrid Jeter-Gilmon forced a fumble by Xavier Johnson, who was also injured on the play and missed the remainder of the game. The bobcats started at the Jaguar 33, but the defense was not allowing another touchdown. Instead the bobcats were forced to kick a 41-yard field goal to take a 10-0 lead late in the first quarter.

The ensuing kickoff was being returned by T.J. Glover when the ball was popped into the air and caught by a Texas State defender at the Jaguar 28-yard line. But again the defense was not going to allow a touchdown. On third and one, Theo Rich stopped the running back for a two yard loss. Then the 38-yard field goal attempt would miss wide left.

The Jaguars would get on the board with about 10 minutes left in the half on and eight play, 56-yard drive for a touchdown. Terrance Timmons gained 29 yards on the drive and moved the chains twice. Vaughn kept the drive alive on fourth-and-three when he found Jereme Jones open for a seven-yard completion. Vaughn would toss a lateral to Jake Howton who would throw it back across the field to Vaughn who would then go 28-yards untouched for the Jaguars first touchdown of the game making it 10-7.

Texas State would regain a 10-point advantage with just over four minutes left in the opening half when tight end Lawrence White was left open running a seam route for a 46-yard touchdown.

The Jags would add a field goal with 1:16 left in the half after Kendall Houston found an opening and ran 31 yards. Aleem Sunanon hit a career-long 46-yard field goal to cut the bobcat lead to 17-10 which would also be the score at halftime.

South Alabama came out in the second half with a renewed energy and determination and held Texas State to just 115 yards and three points.

“Our offensive and defensive staffs did a great job of making adjustments in the second half,” Jones said. “Our kids never gave up, and never had a look in their eyes that they were done. I felt good about it the whole time. I was a little nervous on that last play, but they came up with the play and made it to win the ballgame. It’s a great win for this university.”

USA opened the second half with the ball and only needed four minutes to tie the game. Vaughn kept the drive alive with a 14-yard pass to Bowman on third-and-13. He could come back to Bowman again to gain 45 yards to the Bobcat 9 yard line. Two plays later Vaughn connected with Danny Woodson II in the back corner of the end zone for his first career touchdown pass.

The Jaguars would finally take the lead with just over 12 minutes left in regulation. Terrance Timmons would cap off a 10-play 63 yard drive that took four-and-a-half minutes. The possession began with Timmons breaking off an 11 yard run. Vaughn converted third-and-2 when a 10-yard completion to Bowman on the last play of the third quarter. Kendall Houston set up Timmons for the touchdown after carrying the ball four consecutive times, including a 15 yarder on his first touch.

USA’s defense forced a three-and-out after Maleki Harris stopped Terrence Franks for no gain on a third-and-one. But the on the Jaguars possession, was they were moving the ball, Vaughn’s pass was intercepted along the left sideline and returned to the Jaguars 25 yard line. A nine-yard completion on first down led to a third-and-one at the Jaguar 16, but Maleki Harris blitz up the middle with perfect timing with the snap count to blow up the play and drop Robert Lowe for a four-yard loss. Texas State settled for a field goal to cut the Jaguar lead to 24-20 with over four minutes remaining.

The Texas State defense stiffened and the Jags could not muster a first down and gave the ball back to the Bobcats with two-and-a-half minutes remaining.

A 21-yard completion from quarterback Jones to Brandon Smith on fourth-and-seven kept the drive alive, as did a pass interference call on a third-and-18 at the Jaguar 39 yard line. They could continue to move the ball until they reached the Jaguar 4 yard line with five seconds left on the clock after spiking the ball. The final pass of the game fell incomplete as the Jaguar team broke into celebration.

Hunter Vaughn, the third string quarterback coming into this week, got his first start when Brandon Bridge was not ready to return to the field. Vaughn was an efficient 20-of-28 for 182 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He spread the ball around to seven different receivers with Jereme Jones leading the team with five receptions for 37 yards. Braedon Bowman caught four for 81 yards, Danny Woodson also caught four for 30 yards and a touchdown. Shavarez Smith caught three for 21 yards.

Terrance Timmons led the team on the ground with 74 yards on 11 carries. Houston added 68 yards on 10 carries as the Jaguars rushed for 174 yards as a team with an average of five yards per attempt.

Terrell Brigham had a career-high 12 stops to lead USA. Harris added nine with Jesse Kelley and Davin Hawkins both adding eight each. Kelley had 2.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.

The Jaguar defense held the Texas State running game to only 106 yards, they came into the game averaging 227 yards rushing per game.

“First of all, my hat’s off to Texas State — what a game,” Jaguar head coach Joey Jones said. “Last year it came down to the last play of the game, and it did again this year. They have a great program. [Head] Coach [Dennis] Franchione does one heck of a job with that team, we knew it was going to be a tough one. We went all week long knowing that this was do-or-die for us to get into a bowl game.

“I just want to commend our players and my staff who have done so much in preparation to get to this point. They believed all week long, and they believed the entire game. We got behind and had a few early turnovers, but they didn’t panic. I thought we played a wonderful ballgame. Hunter Vaughn came in at quarterback and did a heck of a job even though he really hasn’t practice all year long. My hat’s off to him as well as the rest of the players on this football team, they did a tremendous thing today. We obviously have a chance to get into a bowl now with six wins, and we’re going to be a good one for somebody. We’re excited about it. It could be the first bowl game in South Alabama history.”

“We live in a one-play world, don’t we with our football team? We came up a play or two short tonight,” TSU head coach Dennis Franchione stated. “South Alabama did a nice job. I thought their quarterback did a better job in the second half and that was big for them. We still were able to get down there [in scoring position] and have a chance to win the game, we just didn’t quite get it done.”

South Alabama improves to 6-4 overall and 5-3 in Sun Belt play. Texas State falls to 5-5 overall and 3-3 in conference play.

The Jaguars travel to Columbia, SC to face South Carolina on Saturday for an 11AM CST kickoff.

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