South Alabama’s start against NC State had the fans excited. Cody Clements connected with Chris Lewis for a 47 yard gain on the opening play and a couple plays later Clements found Gerald Everett for an 11 yard touchdown pass to put the Jaguars up 7-0 less than two minutes into the game.
However, except for two field goals, the rest of the scoring would be all Wolfpack.
NC State came in and showed why they were undefeated on the season, why they came into the game averaging over 440 yards per game and why they averaged over 40 points per game. They were undoubtedly the best team the Jaguars have ever faced in their short history and the scoreboard reflected that with the Jaguars worst loss in program history, 63-13.
But the story is not all doom and gloom and the score might indicate. The Jaguars found found opportunities to throw the ball downfield. Clements finished 14-of-33 for 201 yards and a touchdown, but he also had two interceptions. Lewis hauled in the longest pass for a Jaguar at 47 yards, but D.J. Vinson also had a catch for 45 yards and Marvin Shinn hauled one in for a 36 yard gain as they took advantage of deep opportunities. However the running game could never get going as the Jags only managed 45 yards rushing.
But now the second, and most important, part of the season begins: Conference play.
The Jags head into their final non-conference game of the season in NC State after a great win at San Diego State. Xavier Johnson rushed 19 times for 142 yards and two second half touchdowns, Gerald Everett caught eight passes for 164 yards and a touchdown to help the Jaguars earn the win.
Aleem Sunanon was chosen as the Special Teams Student-Athlete of the week for the second time this season after he matched his career-long with a 46-yard kick as time expired to send the game into overtime, where the Jaguars would win 34-27. Sunanon is tied for the conference lead with 1.67 field goals per game, which ranks him among the top 20 in the nation and is tied for seventh in scoring. He is alsot he first Jaguar football player to earn a conference weekly award on multiple occasions in the same season.
Jeremy Reaves was chosen as the Defensive Student-Athlete of the week, his first honor of his career, after recording a career-high 10 tackles for the second consecutive week. The sophomore also had a pass breakup on third down that forced the Aztecs to punt on their first possesson of the game. He also was credited with a stop for a loss for the third time in three games. Reaves is tied for the team lead with 25 total stops and ranks in the top 10 in the conference in tackles, interceptions and passes defended per game.
Head coach Joey Jones reflected on the game on Monday, “We tried to enjoy the game on the plane ride back, we got home around 5 a.m. and had 2-3 hours sleep before getting back to work. As soon as I got here Sunday morning it was all about N.C. State. It was a big win for our program and everybody involved, and I was happy that we went on the road and beat a quality opponent in San Diego State, but we have to move on to the next game like we always do.”
“We stressed all week about fighting from start to finish, that it was truly going to be a war,” Jones reflected about why he considered it the biggest win in program history. “I thought the guys fought throughout the whole game, which is what it takes, and you have to fight together as a team. We really grew up as a team, you could see it on the sideline. This team is kind of young and new, we have some guys who haven’t played together a lot. It’s starting to come together, I saw some good things on Saturday.”
Jones spoke highly of his defensive staff and about the defensive front’s performance in San Diego. “I thought our defensive staff did a tremendous job putting our guys in the right places to be consistently in the right gaps. We did a much better job of that this week — some of that was personnel moving guys into different spots — but we knew we had to stop the run last week.”
But the Jaguars now have to turn their attention to North Carolina State. After traveling to Raleigh to face them twice, the Wolfpack will visit Mobile to face the Jaguars. But Coach Jones does not worry about being an underdog in the game though. “I don’t worry about those things, but we are playing an ACC opponent who is very good and off to great start this year. We’ve had two long trips to Nebraska and California, so to come home is exciting. The fact that we are playing N.C. State is exciting. I think our crowd is going to be into it like they always are.”
The NC State offense has looked particularly good through their first couple of games. They have athletic linemen, a good running back and an accurate quarterback which will all be challenges to the Jag defense. But with the help of the student section, Jones feels the Jaguars will be ready for the game.”We appreciate what they [students] have done for our football program, we enjoy what they do out there. They’re loud, you can tell they give our opposing team a hard time, and I like that. When we drive up to the game we can see them, and when they are out there in droves it really fires our guys up. They have created an exciting atmosphere.”
Heading into the final non-conference game of the season for the Jaguars, they will be facing a team that is averaging 235 yards per game rushing and over 440 yards of total offense per game. They also average more than 40 points per game as well. Those numbers put them in the top 25 of rushing and total offense in the nation.
NCSU running back Matthew Dayes has rushed for over 100 yards per game in all three games this season with six touchdowns to show for it. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett is 56-of-72 (77.8%) so far this season for 591 yards and four touchdowns.
The Jags are coming off of a season-high 511 yard game, 351 yards of that total coming in the second half and overtime. But the Jaguars will be facing an NC State defense that is second overall by only allowing 188.3 yards per game, fifth overall against the run allowing 51 yards per game, and eighth in points allowed with 11.7 ppg in the nation.
Meanwhile the Jaguar defense is allowing 32.7 points per game, including 191.7 yards rushing per game and 200 yards passing per game. Offensively they are averaging 25.3 points per game, 161.3 yards rushing per game and 255.7 yards passing per game.
The Jags was bitten by the injury bug prior to preseason camp with a season-ending injury to their top defensive lineman coming into the season. Injuries re-emerged on Saturday with at least one but probably two season-ending injuries suffered against the Aztecs.
On Friday, the University of South Alabama will host “JagNight on Dauphin” with a parade, pep rally and entertainment. The parade will start at 7pm in Cathedral Square and will end at Springhill Ave. where there will be a pep rally and other entertainment until 9pm at Moe’s BBQ.
On Saturday, the game will kickoff at 7pm and can be heard locally on Lite Mix 99.9 with two hours of pre-game starting at 5pm and a 30-minute post-game wrap-up after the game. It can also be heard on affiliate radio stations in Alabama and world-wide through the iHeartRadio app.
The game will also be aired on ESPNews.
South Alabama will hold a pep rally in downtown Mobile on Friday, September 25 ahead of the Jaguars game against North Carolina State. This event is similar to what the University did last year when Mississippi State visited the Azalea City to face the Jaguars.
The event will be called “JagNight on Dauphin” and will get underway at 7pm CDT with a parade and conclude with entertainment until 9pm with a party afterward including live music at Moe’s Original BBQ.
The parade will include members of the football team, the USA Marching Band, the cheerleaders and dance teams as well as SouthPaw and Pawla. The parade will begin on Dauphin Street at Cathedral Square and end at Dauphin and Springhill Ave. where Moe’s BBQ is located.
South Alabama head coach Joey Jones and team captains will address the fans at the pep rally that immediately follows the parade. The Marching Band will perform and will feature introductions of the cheerleaders and the Prowlers. After the pep rally, KISS 107.3 FM DJ Matt McCoy will provide entertainment until 9pm.
Parking can be found throughout downtown while shuttles from the dining hall will be free for students beginning at 4pm and running until 10pm.
Fans who wear their JaguarWear Attire will receive discounts and special offers from a number of local venues downtown.
This is a rain or shine event.
The Jags and Wolfpack will kickoff on Saturday, September 26 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium at 7pm CDT and will be televised nationally on ESPNEWS.
The Jaguars experienced offensive line protected the quarterback well for the most part. They opened holes for the running backs but the Cornhusker linebackers and secondary did a great job of coming up and limiting the Jaguar rushing attack. Quarterback Cody Clements stood in the pocket, didn’t panic and was able to find receivers open, a couple for big gains too.
Defensively the younger, less experienced defensive line had problems most of the night against the big Nebraska offensive line. In the second half, particularly early, the Jags came out and played much better against the Huskers, but allowed the same number of points in the first half.
The younger Jaguars may have been caught up in the pomp and circumstance that surrounds Nebraksa football with their 342’nd consecutive sellout. You just cannot simulate what it’s going to be like in front of 89,000 jubulant fans in practice.
The end result was a 48-9 loss for the Jaguars and a week to prepare for San Diego State on Saturday.
SDSU’s offense runs more of a traditional “I” style offense, similar to the Jaguars from about three or four years ago. They are a power running team with counters, iso’s and play action passing off the run. The Jaguars will have to keep Donnell Pumphrey in their sights as he is a smaller guy with speed with a large offensive line.
The Jaguar defense will have to mind their gaps better than they did against Nebraska or it’s going to be another long day for them against Pumphrey as he leads the team with 147 rushing yards with Chase Price adding 101 yards on 19 attempts with a 5.3 yards per rush average. Quarterback Maxwell Smith, a transfer from Kentucky, has completed 19-of-40 passes for 236 yards. Mikah Holder leads the team with five receptions but Eric Judge and Pumphrey have four each themselves.
The Aztec defense has lots of returning talent, several of whom are seniors. The defense is far from traditional with lots of guys standing at the line of scrimmage then coming when the ball is snapped.
The Aztecs are coming off of a loss of their own to a ‘Power Five’ team in a 35-7 loss to California.
Numbers-wise through their first two games the Aztecs are allowing only 19 points and less than 340 yards per game, including just over 120 yards per game rushing. Their defense has two standout players, Jake Fely who leads the team with 20 total stops and fellow linebacker Calvin Munson who has 17 total tackles, but with 4.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, three of them sacks, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns and a fumble recovery. He is by far the most disruptive force on the defensive squad.
Josh Magee finished with six catches for 147 yards against Nebraska, including a 33 yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. Gerald Everett, Kevin Kutchera and Margin Shinn all had three catches each. Everett and Magee are tied for the lead with seven catches each this season.
Xavier Johnson leads the Jaguars rushing attack with 149 yards through two games. Tyreis Thomas and Terrance Timmons have combined for 112 yards rushing so far this season as well.
Roman Buchanan and Blake Dees are tied for the team lead with 20 stops each. Buchanan led the team for the first time in his career with 11 tackles, a career-best, in Lincoln. Overall Jeremy Reaves has 15 tackles, two behind the line, this season. Kalen Jackson has 14 total tackles, Devon Earl has 13 and Demarius Rancifer has 12.
The Jaguar defense has four takeaways this season. E.J. May’s first interception of the season led to the Jaguars only touchdown against the Cornhuskers.
Head coach Joey Jones was audibly and visibly displeased this week on his tv and radio shows. “We have fared well against a lot of these teams — Mississippi State, Tennessee and South Carolina — so that was the first time we haven’t played well against a Power Five team,” he said in USA’s weekly press conference. “I wasn’t real happy with the way we played overall.”
“Looking at the film there were some things we did well, I thought for the most part the offensive line protected the quarterback — and they have some first-round draft picks on that defensive front — that Cody [Clements] threw the ball well and stood in there and didn’t panic, and Josh [Magee] obviously had a great game at receiver,” Jones observed. “Defensively we just didn’t fit the gaps. I preach to them all the time about being fundamental, making sure that you play your gap, and I don’t think we did that. I didn’t think we played great on specials teams, we had some freshmen out there, but we’re going to grow up and learn from this.
“When you play a team like Nebraska, they expose your weaknesses because a lot of times they have better cats than your cats, they are bigger and faster. We have to see our weaknesses — we knew we had some, some that were obvious — to make them strengths by the time [Sun Belt] conference play gets here.”
“I think it will help, we have so many young guys; there are guys who were in the first time out in a situation like that,” Jones said about how the Nebraska game will help this week. “We are playing four to five freshmen on defense a lot, as well as some other guys who don’t have a lot of experience, so going through that certainly will help them for the next game and the next time that happens. We can play all the loud music and fight song over speakers, but until they get out there and look around at 89,000 people it is just different. You have to go through it to learn, but there’s no doubt we’ll be able to handle that better the next time because the young guys are coming along.”
South Alabama and San Diego State will get underway at 7PM (CDT) at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California which is home to the NFL’s San Diego Chargers, coincidentally where former Jaguar Melvin Meggs worked out as a free agent. The game will be broadcast in Mobile on 99.9FM along with the rest of the Jaguar Sports Network in the state of Alabama as well as world-wide via iHeartRadio. The Mountain West Network will have a free video stream of the game available online.
South Alabama displayed some big play ability during their 33-23 win over Gardner-Webb on Saturday. As the Jaguars gear up to travel to Lincoln, Nebraska to face the Cornhuskers, they will need more of those big plays if they want to upset Big Red.
All four of the Jaguars touchdowns cover 49 yards or more. Terrance Timmons started the scoring when he broke a 49 yard touchdown in the opening two minutes of the game with his first carry. Later in the first quarter Cody Clements connected with Gerald Everett for an ESPN highlight reel touchdown run covering 50 yards.
The game was halted due to a lightning and Gardner-Webb was able to make some adjustments to stymie the Jaguar on both sides of the ball. They would score nine points to close out the first half and add a touchdown in the third quarter to take a 16-13 lead on the Jaguars with 10:50 remaining.
But the Runnin’ Bulldog lead would not last very long, just a mere 15 seconds. On the first play of the drive, Xavier Johnson would take what was recorded as a pass from Clements 56 yards to regain the lead at 20-16.
With 24 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Aleem Sunanon, who earned Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Player of the Week, added a 41 yard field goal to further pad the Jaguar lead. Early in the fourth quarter Sunanon would add a second field goal, this time from 28 yards out on the right hashmark to give the Jaguars a 26-16 advantage.
A short time later, the Jaguar defense would hold GWU to a punt which was fair caught around the Jaguar eight yard line. On the second play of the possession, Xavier Johnson broke free for a Jaguar record 92 yard touchdown run.
Garnder-Webb would score once more with 19 seconds left to make it a 10-point game at the end.
“Overall we made some big plays when we had to have them,” said Jaguar head coach Joey Jones. “Xavier Johnson had two big ones, he was the player of the game in my opinion. He had some big plays that really got us going in the second half.”
GWU’s option attack caught the Jaguar defense on their heels, particularly after the lightning delay. Bulldog quarterback Tyrell Maxwell was the leading rusher for opponents with 102 yards on 22 carries. But the Jaguar defense eventually adjusted and did a good job of mostly keeping him contained later in the game. Maxwell also went 11-of-22 for 132 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions as well.
The bulldogs large tight end also caused some problems, particularly when he had a favorable matchup. He caught four passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns.
UPDATE: Antonio Carter will miss 4-5 weeks with a broken foot. Danny Woodson Jr. will miss two games due to academic issues. Both were returning experienced players as mentioned in the original article, their contributions will definitely be missed on the field.
The Jaguars are less than 36 hours from their season opening game against Gardner-Webb University. With a very good preseason camp from all accounts and the addition of several UAB transfers and freshman class, it seems the Jaguars are ready to build on their success last season and attempt to improve on the foundation set during the previous five seasons.
But who is Gardner-Webb?
Gardner-Webb University is a private, four-year university in Boiling Springs, North Carolina west of Charlotte. It was founded as Boiling Springs High School in 1905 as a Baptist institution, it is the youngest NC Baptist university.
They have an enrollment of approximately 5,000 students including both undergraduate and graduate students. They have a total of five professional schools, two academic schools and 11 academic departments which offer nearly 60 fields of study. Their online programs have earned multiple awards and recognition.
The GWU sports programs compete in the NCAA Division I with football participating in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) as members of the Big South Conference. Their first football team was fielded in 1970 and play their home games in 9,000 seat Ernest W. Spangler Stadium.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs enter the 2015 with a seasoned defense but lots of questions on offense. Their top defensive linemen are 6’3″ 304, 6’2″ 280 and 6’1″ 293. Their defense allowed less than 400 yards per game last season and return 15 student-athletes with starting experience. Outside linebacker Aaron Cook had 92 tackles, including 13 behind the line of scrimmage and four sacks, to go along with five passes broken up and forcing a pair of fumbles. Preseason First-Team FCS All-American O.J. Mau had 60 stops, 10 for loss, from the nose guard position. Additionally they return inside linebacker Tanner Burch who led the team with 107 tackles in the 2013 season but missed the 2014 season due to injury.
“I know last year they had a really good defense — I think they were 20th in the country — and have a lot of those guys back, so you would think they would be good defensively,” Jones stated. “They are really good on the defensive front; to me, that’s the strength of their team based off of last year. They know how to play and are very well coached.”
Offensively GWU has more questions that needed answering going into preseason camp. They return an experienced tight end in Mike Estes who had 34 catches for 408 yards and two touchdowns last season. In all, the offense returns five upperclassmen on the offensive line, but they are replacing starters at every skill position on an offense that gained just under 75 yards rushing and 220 yards overall during the 2014 season.
They return their top scorer in placekicker Paul Schumacher, who had 46 points last season. They also return punter Andrew Komornik who averaged 38.8 yards per punt.
What about the Jaguars?
South Alabama freshman Jemma Purfield was named the Sun Belt Conference Women’s Soccer Defensive Student-Athlete of the week on Tuesday. She is the second Jaguar to earn this recognition this season after Charde Hannah earned it last week.
Purfield, a native of Cottingham, England, scored a goal with an assist and helped lead the Jaguar defense in two shutouts. She played all 90 minutes against Louisiana Tech in a 1-0 victory where she recorded two shots on goal as the Jag defense only allowed two shots in the match.
Two days later, Purfield scored her first career goal in a 7-0 win over Tennessee-Martin. She also added an assist as the Jag defense held UTM to only six shots to record their second consecutive shutout.
Purfield has started every game this season and played all but 22 minutes.
South Alabama, who received three votes in the latest NSCAA Top 25 poll, will host the Jaguar Classic this weekend as South Florida, Troy and Austin Peay all come to The Cage for weekend matches. The Jags will face USF on Friday at 7pm then Austin Peay on Sunday at 2:30pm.
The NCAA announced on Tuesday that University of South Alabama Director of Athletics Dr. Joel Erdmann will serve as chair of the Division I Baseball Committee for the 2015-16 academic year.
Erdmann represents the South Region in the 10-member committee just completed his third year with the group. His role serving with the committee includes helping to select and seed the field for the NCAA Tournament as well as assisting in site administration.
“I am humbled and honored for the opportunity to serve as chair of the committee,” Erdmann was quoted as saying. “The committee is made up of highly capable professionals who understand the core of our duty is to provide the best championship field and experience for our student-athletes, coaches and fans. I look forward to the upcoming year as we continue to move the baseball championship and the great game itself forward.”
As USA’s AD, Erdmann has been members of the baseball, softball, golf and tennis committees in the Sun Belt Conference. When he was AD at the University of North Alabama, Erdmann was a member of the NCAA Division II Football Committee during the 2006-07 academic year and also co-chaired the NCAA Division II Football Southeast Region Advisory Committee.
Coach Jones’ opening statement: “There is a lot of anticipation for this season, probably because we don’t have as many starters coming back as in previous years. This year we have a lot of new faces and names, which is exciting. It’s been fun working with them, I think they have gotten better and better, so it has been a real satisfying camp. We have some work to do, but I really feel like they are ready to play a ball game, as most teams are by now.”
Jones compared this season to years past at South Alabama. “It’s pretty much the same. You go through three to three-and-a-half weeks of camp and you scrimmage a couple of times during that period, you think you know what you have but until you play you just don’t know. A lot of it has to do with how good everybody else is; there could be some really good teams out there we’re playing, I know our schedule is extremely tough. We’re going to do all we can do, our guys have taken on leadership roles on the team which has been fun to watch.”
Jones reflecting on how last year’s bowl game affects the goals this season. “We’ve had a lot of people around our program over the years who had a piece getting us to a bowl last year, not just last year’s team. Previous teams spent all their time and effort to get our program to where it is right now, but we want to take it to another level — we don’t want to be satisfied by that at all. Our goal is to win the [Sun Bet] conference championship first, and secondly to get in and win a bowl game. Our guys are starting to realize that those kinds of things can happen, we’re getting our program to that point. We are going to have to play some really good football in order to do that, but our guys believe they can.”
Coach Jones talks about what he knows about Gardner-Webb. “It’s hard to say because a lot of their players will be new. I know last year they had a really good defense — I think they were 20th in the country — and have a lot of those guys back, so you would think they would be good defensively. Their nose guard is a really good football player, and offensively they have an athletic quarterback who played some last year as a back-up.
“Other than that you don’t know, you have to have your basics ready and be able to adjust quickly in the game because they are going to do some things they didn’t do last year. The first game is always a scary one for any team. We will have to make some adjustments early and play well.”
Coach Jones also previewed the match-up between the Jaguars offensive line and the Runnin’ Bulldog’s defensive line. “It will be a challenge, they are really good on the defensive front; to me, that’s the strength of their team based off of last year. They know how to play and are very well coached, so the challenge for our offensive line will be great. Now, do I think we have some good offensive linemen? I do, I think our offensive line has really come on and that we’ve answered some questions on the left side. We have five guys up there who I think can win in the Sun Belt Conference, and we’re starting to get some depth behind those guys as well.”
Senior offensive lineman Chris May spoke about the upcoming season opener agasint Garnder-Webb. “I’m definitely tired of hitting the same guys every day, but at the same time it has been a cool process of getting to this point throughout the summer with these guys. We have really meshed together and become a team, so we’re excited. We have a really good feeling about this year.
“Scheme-wise we are going to do what we do. Every defensive lineman and defensive front is going to play differently, but for the most part we are going to do what we do.”
May also spoke about the GWU defensive line. “It’s exciting to play a really good defensive line the first week of the year. It gives you a good measuring stick for how well you can play as an offensive line. Their defensive line is the strong point of their team. They have moved some guys around, so getting in the film room and being able to watch them is exciting too.”
Finally, May spoke about game preparation for GWU. “We are very focused on this week’s opponent. (Offensive coordinator) Coach (Bryant) Vincent has done a really good job of preparing us. A problem we have had here in the past is starting slow the first game. Coach Vincent has done an amazing job of pushing that upon us, and we have taken it upon our own shoulders to not start slow and prepare for this team the way we will for any opponent. They are a very good team.”
Senior defensive back E.J. May Spoke about the season opener and their preparations as a defensive unit. “I’m extremely excited. It’s my senior year, and I’m just ready to get on a roll. We have been beating up on each other for the last month, and now it’s time to take it out on our opponents.
“You never know what the other team is going to do going into the first game. It is usually going to be something different. I have heard they will have a new quarterback. We really don’t know too much, all we can focus on is what we do and make adjustments throughout the game.
“You have to treat every opponent the same. We have to prepare for Gardner-Webb just like we will prepare for Nebraska, San Diego State and N.C. State. Everyone is focused on this week.”
Coach Jones and his staff released the depth chart in conjunction with the press conference heading into the season opener against Gardner-Webb. There’s a few slight surprises but overall most of those expected to be starters are there. Here’s a link to the full depth chart as released by USA (PDF).
On offense Josh Magee gets the start over Marvin Shinn at Z receiver position. Terrance Timmons starts at running back with Tyreis Thomas, Xavier Johnson and Dami Ayoola backing him up. As announced a while back Cody Clements will get the start at quarterback with Dallas Davis as #2 and Hunter Vaughn at #3 on the depth chart.
No surprises on the offensive line with LT Curtis Williams, LG Daniel Aust, Center Joseph Scelfo, RG Cameron Blankenship and RT Chris May. Redshirt freshman Noah Fisher is listed as #2 for LT and RT.
A bit of a shakeup occurred on the defensive front when Jimmie Gipson III tore his achilles in summer workouts. Akeem Lewis starts at jack, Tre Alford at nose tackle, Caleb Butler at defensive tackle and DeMarion Harper will start and end. Redshirt freshman Chason Milner from Spanish Fort is #2 at the end position.
Blake Dees gets the start at Mike linebacker with freshman Bull Barge or senior Andrew Philon as his backup. Kalen Jackson gets the start at Money linebacker with Demarius Rancifer or Raymone Wiggins as his backup.
Margo Reed starts at left cornerback with freshman Jalen Thompson as his #2 and E.J. May starting at right cornerback with Quinton Dent and Nigel Green behind him.
No surprises here with Antonio Carter at FS, Roman Buchanan at SS and Jeremy Reaves at the Star position.
Kickoff returns will be handled by Claude Garrett and Xavier Johnson with Josh Magee and Tony Ray Parnell next in line. Punts will be handled by Josh Magee with Jalen Thompson behind him.
Junior Aleem Sunanon will handle field goals with Brandon McKee the holder and Corliss Waitman will handle kickoffs. Punting duties will either be Brandon McKee or Corliss Waitman. Freshman Carson Sharp will handle the long snapper duties.