Preview: South Alabama vs Idaho

November 4, 2015 · By · Filed Under Football 

Jags_vs_Idaho

After a week off to rest and heal from all the bumps and bruises that accumulate through the grind of a college football season, the Jaguars continue preparing to host a much improved Idaho team for homecoming on Saturday.

The Jags are coming off of tough 36-18 road loss to Texas State, in what was a rainy mess of a game, and look to get back on the winning side coming down the stretch.

The team and coaches can put the tumultuous month of October behind them and start fresh in November. The worst part of October was the total disruption of their schedule, it varied from week to week. They had a long layoff to play a Tuesday night game, then another long layoff to play a Saturday game. Now they hit reset on all that flipping of schedules and concentrate on a more normal game week.

Last season the Jags went to Moscow, Idaho and defeated the Vandals in the Kibbie Dome, that Vandal team finished the season 1-10. Head coach Paul Petrino has his team playing much better this year as they are sitting at 3-5 overall and 2-3 in conference play with wins over Troy and Louisiana-Monroe under their belt. Though they lost last Saturday to New Mexico State, which snapped the Aggies streak of 15 consecutive losses.

The Vandals offense has really spurred their improvement this season. Petrino, brother of Bobby Petrino, ran the offense for his brother at Arkansas and Louisville and is the same offense the Jaguars faced when USA played Western Kentucky a few years ago. Jaguar head coach Joey Jones understands it to a point, but is quick to point out that it’s very complex and they do lots of things differently, more so than any team the Jags have faced.

Texas State was a very uncharacteristic game for the Jaguars as they were hit with 10+ penalties in the first half. They had more penalties and yards in the first half than they have averaged all season long or more than they have committed in a single game all season.

On Monday, quarterback Cody Clements said that the offense needs to “kick it in gear.” The Jags do not have any time left for self-inflicted mistakes, penalties or errors. Errors have been the undoing of the Jaguars in their losses this season, eliminate those and some of those games are much different.

The Jags will also put their 6-0 homecoming record on the line on Saturday. In each of their six wins, the Jags have posted 30+ points per outing with an average margin of victory of two touchdowns.

And the Jags may need to put up some big numbers to win on Saturday. The Vandals have averaged 34 points in its three conference road games this and has won two of their last three games.

The two quarterbacks in the game, USA’s Clements and Vandals Matt Linehan, are two of the leaders in the Sun Belt Conference. Linehan is 164-of-260 for 1,911 yards and 10 touchdowns while Clements is 113-of-213 for 1,593 yards and 10 touchdowns. They are second and third, respectively, in the conference in passing yards. In addition, both teams have a rusher who ranks in the top 10 in the conference with Elijhaa Penny who has 814 yards rushing on 168 carries with five touchdowns and ranks fourth in the conference with 101.8 yards per game rushing. While Xavier Johnson leads the Jags with 503 yards rushing on 75 carries with four touchdowns. He ranks 10th in the conference with 71.9 yards per game.

Gerald Everett (28-405, 6TD’s) and Josh Magee (16-421, 3TD’s) stand sixth and eighth, respectively, in the conference in receiving yards per game. The Vandals’ Callen Hightower (29-305, 1TD) is seventh in catches per game while Mezmon Epps (61-757, 2TD’s) leads the SBC in both receptions and receiving yards per game, however he has not played the last two weeks after being suspended indefinitely and is not expected to play on Saturday either.

The South Alabama offense is averaging just under 380 yards per game and over 23 points per game so far this season. Idaho is averaging 420 yards and over 28 points per game.

Defensively both teams are allowing close to the same average points per game: 37.7 for the Jaguars and 39.9 for the Vandals. However USA is allowing almost 100 fewer yards per game at 399.3 ypg vs Idaho’s 497.2 ypg. A big reason for disparity in yardage but almost the same points allow, the Jags have turned the ball over and given the opponents a short field. They have also had a couple pick-six’s as well.

The Jaguar defense is highlighted by a number of individuals. Blake Dees, who has 63 stops so far this season, is tied for 3rd in the conference in tackles per game. Jeremy Reaves, who has 54 total stops and 5 tackles for loss, is also among the top 10 in the conference. Roman Buchanan and Kalen Jackson stand in the top 10 with a pair of interceptions each and also rank third and fourth on the team with 46 and 38 tackles. Jackson is averaging 1.67 tackles for loss per game in conference play, which ranks second. DeMarion Harper leads the defensive front with seven tackles for loss, including two sacks, in his 31 tackle total.

For the Vandals, Chris Edwards has eight tackles for loss to rank in the top 10 of the conference to go along with this 48 stops on the season. Kaden Elliss and Marc Millan each have 46 stops. Millan also has two interceptions and forced a pair of fumbles but has been suspended for the game by the league office on Tuesday for multiple unsportsmanlike acts in the Vandals 55-48 overtime loss at New Mexico State last weekend.

The two placekickers in the game are one-two in the conference as Idaho’s Austin Rehkow is 17-of-20 on the season with an average of 2.12 per game and also ranks third in the conference with 9.1 points per game. USA’s Aleem Sunanon is tied for second in the conference in field goals per outing. He can converted 10-of-13 on the season with an average of 6.6 points per game.

Hopefully the Jaguars can take advantage of the missing Vandals and get a run starts as they march towards the post-season, but it will not be an easy run. The Jaguars will play four of the five teams ahead of them in the conference standings, which includes the Vandals.

The gates to Ladd-Peebles Stadium will open at 8am for tailgating. Jaguar Prowl will be at 11:45am with the team walking around the south side of the stadium in the tailgating area. Stadium gates will open at noon with kickoff scheduled for 2pm.

Go Jags!

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