South Alabama (3-3, 1-1 SBC) travels to San Marcos, Texas to face Texas State (1-4, 0-1 SBC) this weekend. South Alabama opened their conference schedule with an emotional, hard fought win over rival Troy before returning home for a hard fought loss to Arkansas State on October 13 where the Jaguars went from leading the Red Wolves by 11 early in fourth quarter to losing by 18.
Meanwhile the Bobcats enter the game after an off week since their loss to Louisiana-Lafayette on October 10.
In only two games between the two teams, there have been plenty of fireworks between the two. In 2013 the Jags traveled to TSU and took a 31-30 lead but saw the game slip away when the Bobcats converted a 41-yard field goal with :04 left in the game.
Then last season the Jaguars took a 24-17 lead early in the fourth quarter and had to hold off a potential game-winning drive that saw quarterback Tyler Jones’ pass on 2nd-and-goal on the four yard line fell incomplete in the end zone as time expired to give the Jaguars a 24-20 win. But it also gave the Jaguars bowl eligibility and a bowl invitation.
The Bobcats finished the season 7-5 but without a bowl invitation. Now they want to get revenge on the Jaguars.
Both team have needed the extra time between games to heal. Texas State will reportedly be without a starting offensive lineman and one of their top two running backs. Meanwhile the Jaguars bumped and bruised offensive line has had a chance to get some rest.
Offensive lineman Cameron Blankenship will miss the game and possibly up to three weeks after a knee injury required minor surgery following the loss to Arkansas State. Running back Xavier Johnson missed most of the ASU game with an injured foot but is expected to be ready by Saturday. Additionally, Antiono Carter will finally be able to return to the field after missing the first half of the season due to a preseason injury.
By the Numbers
The Texas State defense ranks last in the conference in Scoring Defene, Total Defense, Pass Defense and Pass Defense Efficency, Interceptions, Kickoff Coverage, Field Goal Percentage, Opponents 3rd Down Conversions and ranks 8th (out of 11) in Rush Defense.
If the numbers are telling, the Jaguars have a great opporunity to move the ball and score this weekend, which they may need because the Bobcat offense ranks in the top half of the conference offensively.
South Alabama’s defense ranks second in the conference against the pass, allowing under 190 yards per game whiel ranking third in the conference in pass efficiency defense (130.22 rating). Roman Buchanan and Kalen Jackson both have two interceptions each, while E.J. May and Jalen Thompson have broken up four and three passes respectively.
The Jaguar defense only allowed 345 yards to Arkansas State in their last game, which put their season average under 400 yards per game. Texas State’s offense averages 458.4 yards per game (3rd in the conference) and 34 points per game (also 3rd) and is second in the conference with an average of 258.2 yards per game passing.
Tyler Jones leads the Bobcat offense with 1,501 yards of total offense. He has completed 62.3% of his passes for 1,154 yards while being his teams leading rusher with 347 yards and five touchdowns on just 58 attempts. He ranks second in the conference in total offense and is among the top five in passing yards per game and efficiency while ranking eighth in rushing.
Meanwhile Cody Clements threw for a career high 273 yards and three touchdowns against Arkansas State. He ranks third in the conference in passing yards per game (234 ypg), sixth in total offense (226.7 ypg) and seventh in passing efficency (123.5).
Josh Magee is fifth in the conference in receiving yards on only 14 catches for 402 yards. His only catch against ASU went 76 yards for a touchdown. Gerald Everett is right behind Magee in sixth place with 375 yards on 26 catches. His seven touchdowns puts him in the top 10 in scoring as well as catches per game.
The Jaguar run game is led by Xavier Johnson and Tyreis Thomas. Johnson leads the team with 410 yards rushing while Thomas has 251 yards.
Head coach Joey Jones cautioned that USA will not be able to just show up and win. “With the teams they’ve played — Florida State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Southern Miss — they have had a tough schedule and a tough road. They are very good on offense, but they lost their defensive coordinator a couple of weeks ago and are trying to fix things. I know (head coach) Dennis Franchione very well, he’s a great competitor who is going to have his team ready so we are looking forward to a great ballgame.”
Jones understands the team hurts when they lose, but they already have a lot to pull from this season such as their big road wins against San Diego State and Troy. “When you go through a season there are going to be times when you do make mistakes and lose ballgames, you saw that this weekend across the country,” Jones stated.
One thing the Jaguars have to do in order to win: run the ball. “If you look at the games we’ve won we have run the ball well,” Jones said. “We didn’t run the ball well against Arkansas State. In the fourth quarter when you are ahead you have to run the football to run the clock, and we didn’t do that. But we ran the ball well against San Diego State and against Troy, and that translated into wins, so we know that we have to be able to run the football. Our coaches know that and our players know that.”
In the teams three wins they have rushed for over 200 yards per game on average. But in their losses, they have rushed for an average of just over 30 yards per game.
Look for South Alabama to try to establish the run and soften up the defense with some big passes downfield. Texas State’s pass defense has obviously been susceptable to the pass all season, but the unknown is how they will respond after the loss of their defensive coordinator recently.
The Jaguar defense, led by Roman Buchanan and Kalen Jackson, have played very well the last few games. They will be tested by the Bobcats and their variety of looks and ability to score points.
South Alabama started their conference schedule with a win over Troy last weekend and brought home the championship belt in its debut between the two schools. Jaguar fans traveled well and made their voices hear in Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The Jaguars will host Arkansas State on Tuesday evening for a nationally televised game with big implications for the conference.
The Red Wolves are perineally in the mix for the conference championship and have represented the Sun Belt Conference in the GoDaddy Bowl in each of the last four seasons.
One of these two teams will suffer their first conference loss of season.
The Jaguars fell behind early and the Red Wolves capitalized on three interceptions and a fumble recovery to defeat the Jaguars 45-10 in Jonesboro, Arkansas. ASU rushed for 227 yards and threw for 186 more while the Jaguars only managed 90 yards passing and 111 on the ground. It was the second loss in a row as they were trying to get bowl eligible. The team regrouped and won a hard fought game against Texas State the next week to get bowl eligible and eventually earn their first-ever bowl invitation.
After replacing 17 starters, the Jaguars seem to be meshing well and getting ready for the remainder of their conference schedule. They had painful setbacks against Nebraska and NC State, but showed guts and determination in both games despite the score. That work could pay dividends throughout the rest of the season.
On the other hand, Arkansas State has florished through uncertainty. This is the first season the Red Wolves has had the same head coach since 2010. Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn and Bryan Harsin all spent just one season in Jonesboro before moving on to bigger programs.