Preview: South Alabama vs Appalachian State

December 3, 2015 · By · Filed Under Football, Sun Belt Conference 


After back-to-back loses, the South Alabama Jaguars (5-6, 3-4 SBC) have one last shot at guaranteeing themselves a spot in postseason play when they host Appalachian State (9-2, 3-4 SBC) on Saturday.

The Jags went on the road to Georgia State on November 21st and lost a 10 point lead en route to falling 24-10 to the Panthers. Then after the Jags took an early 7-0 lead at Georgia Southern last Saturday, the Eagles came to life in the second quarter to take a 28-14 lead into halftime. USA would only manage a field goal in the second half on the way to a 55-17 loss at the hands of the Eagles triple-option attack.

In the regular season finale, the Jags will host Appalachian State for Senior Day and needing a win to guarantee a bowl slot. With 80 bowl slots in games, only 75 teams have achieved bowl eligibility with three teams vying to get their sixth win and earn bowl eligibility this weekend.

Basically, it’s win or stay home for the Jaguars.

“The players are taking this week very personal,” head coach Joey Jones said in his Monday press conference. “They want to win. They want to get into a bowl game, that’s one of our goals obviously. We’re going to be all in this game, and the guys will be ready. You can tell a lot of those guys know it’s their last chance.”

But the Appalachian State team they will be facing is not the same team they faced last season in Boone, NC. Defensively they are leading the conference in the fewest amount of points allowed.

“They are very active up front and do a lot of things out of a three-man front – a lot of blitzes,” Coach Jones explained. “They are much more diverse than they were last year. They play zone coverage extremely well. That’s one thing that they are really good at. They drop to their spots, break on the ball and have fast guys back there who do a good job. Offensively, they are really good running the football. They execute very well. Their passing game is not the most complex in the world, but they really know how to do it. Their offense is really methodical about what they do. They have a lot of long drives and move the ball down the field consistently.”

The Mountaineers have only lost one conference game, which came to the only undefeated in the the Sun Belt Conferece in Arkansas State. Now they have an opportunity for a 10-win season. Their only other loss came to #1 ranked Clemson the second week of the season.

The Jaguar defense enters the game ranked fifth in the conference in total yards allowed per game (411.6) and third against the pass with less than 200 yards per game through the air. Blake Dees became only the fourth individual in the last four years to record 100 or more tackles in a season. His total of 102 ranks third in the conference.

Jeremy Reaves ranks second on the team with 85 stops and which puts him in the top 20 in the conference in that category along with stops for loss, passes defended and fumbles forced per game. Kalen Jackson is tops on the team with 7.5 stops for loss.

South Alabama is averaging nearly 360 yards and 25 points per game coming into this weeks game. Just over 155 of those yards are coming on the ground. Xavier Johnson is closing in the schools single season record with 844 yards on the season rushing. He has already broken the all-purpose yards in a season with 1,334 as he is averaging over 31 yards per kickoff return. Tyreis Thomas surpassed the 500-yard mark last weekend out of the backfield as well.

Cody Clements has 2,177 yards and 13 touchdowns through the air this season, both rank in the top 3 in the schools single season record books. Gerald Everett has 37 catches for 552 yards and eight touchdowns as his top target.

App State enter the game leading the Sun Belt in total offense in addition to their scoring defense. They are allowing only 313.7 yards and 17.5 points per game defensively. Offensively, they are gaining 470 yards and is second in the conference with an average of 37.5 points per game.

Marcus Cox is one of three individuals in the Sun Belt who is averaging over 100 yards per game rushing with 1,073 yards and eight scores on the season. Underclassmen Jalin Moore and Terrence Upshaw have added 551 and 436 yards respectively. Quarterback Taylor Lamb has run for 367 yards and four touchdowns on the ground while completing 142-of-235 passes (60.7%) for 2,100 yards and 27 touchdowns. He also leads the conference in passing efficiency and fifth in total offense.

Simms McElfresh leads the Mountaineers with 27 catches, five for touchdowns, with 352 yards. Shaeson Meadors and Malachi Jones are both averaging over 20 yards per catch with 439 and 424 yards respectively with both catching 21 passes.

“First of all I want to thank all of our seniors for their commitment to our program and the work they have done to get this program on the map,” Jones said of the seniors on the team. “They have just been tremendous on and off the field, and I want to thank them. Secondly, we have a ballgame to win. All of our guys know it’s huge for our program and huge for us. We have a really good team coming in here in Appalachian State, and we have a lot of respect for them. We’re excited about playing.”

Seniors Chris May and E.J. May were the representatives at media day on Monday. Below are highlights of what they had to say.

Chris May:
Concerning Senior Day: “It’s a cool thing, especially for both of us having been here a really long time. We get to shut the door on playing at Ladd-Peebles Stadium – it’s going to be a cool experience. It will be an emotional experience, but at the same time after the Senior Day festivities are over it’s time to play football. It’s game time and to an extent just another game, but at the same time it will be an emotional experience.”

On his last home game: “You prepare for every game the same, but there is a little bit extra for this one just because it’s win or go home for us and especially for this senior class. A good chunk of us, if not all of us – this could be the last time we ever play football. That’s a pretty big deal, so it’s definitely something you put a little extra in to but at the same time you prepare for every game the same.”

On the offense not sustaining their fast start in the last two games: “I really don’t know other than us not executing as an offense. That first drive the last three or four weeks has been really good. We drove down right down the field and scored or put up three points really quick, and then after that it’s like we just sputtered the rest of the game. And that’s on us. If I was going to put my finger on anything, I would say execution as an offense in total. When we don’t execute, it puts our defense in bad situations especially against an offense like we played last week. If we go three-and-out, we’ll be lucky to get the ball one or two more times in that quarter just because that offense chews the clock so much. When we don’t execute it puts our defense in bad situations, and causes us not to score points as well.”

E.J. May:
Concerning Senior Day: “I still feel like every game is the same; you prepare the same for each game. But the fact that it’s our last (regular season) game and we need it to go to a bowl, we’re going to work as hard as we can.”

On the defense: “We just need to fire on all cylinders on stopping the run and pass, and have everyone communicating and do the best we can.”

On the Mountaineers offense: “They are very balanced. They throw the ball just as much as they run it, and they like to take shots down the field every now and then. They just have a good solid offensive line with solid receivers and running backs with a great quarterback too. You just have to be ready; everybody has to be ready.”

South Alabama’s offense has been a Jekyll and Hyde team. One week they look great, then the next you wonder what has happened to them. As a team they have shown that they can stop a speedy and productive running back (Louisiana-Lafayette) and they have been able to defeat a prolific passing team (Idaho). They will need to put it all together to defeat the Mountaineers if they want to guarantee themselves a postseason bowl game.

Saturday’s game will kick off at 6:30 PM at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The “Jaguar Prowl” will go through the tailgating area behind the south endzone around 4:00PM. Round trip shuttle service will begin at 2:30PM running from the Shoppes at Bel Air located behind J.C. Penney to the stadium and back with continuous service until 90 minutes after the game ends for only $2.50 per person with children 5 and under riding free.

Go Jags!


10 Responses to “Preview: South Alabama vs Appalachian State”

  1. Huan on December 4th, 2015 8:16 am

    We have not played well in the second half. I have to attribute this to inadequate adjustments by the coaching staffs.

  2. Brian on December 4th, 2015 8:41 am

    Our second half play has been spotty. I think our in-game offensive adjustments after halftime have not been good. Particularly against GaSt and TxSt. Our go-to play to try to loosen up the defense is throw it deep to Magee. We rarely try to use him as a decoy to throw to the taller Woodson.

  3. Huan on December 4th, 2015 9:38 am

    that sounds like a coaching issue rather than a player issue to me.

  4. Brian on December 4th, 2015 10:31 am

    One of the big things was we lost so many good starters on the offensive line. We still have a ways to go to close the recruiting gap between us and Arkansas State, App St. & Ga Southern.

  5. Huan on December 4th, 2015 6:18 pm

    true, but we also picked up a few players from UAB

    i don’t think Jones is on the hot seat till next year

  6. Brian on December 5th, 2015 9:00 am

    We definitely needed Blankenship on the OL, Kalen Jackson has been big at LB, Magee made big plays early in the season. No doubt that Everett has been a huge part of the offense this season. But what we gained from UAB did not make up what we lost to graduation. Attrition and needs has gotten the graduation balance off a bit. We have had to turn to JuCo to try to balance it out with filling needs and balancing classes.

    We have a pretty even number graduating from the offense and defense so I think we can probably have a more solid season next year. Next season we have 21 offensive players, 7 of them offensive lineman, that will be seniors.

  7. Huan on December 6th, 2015 8:55 am

    We played better in the second half last night. too bad we didn’t make bowl eligibility.

    next year!
    go Jags.

  8. Brian on December 6th, 2015 9:06 am

    I’ll have to write up a review of the season but I was delighted to see Dallas Davis leading the team in the second half last night. Honestly, I’m glad to see the UAB “experiment” end this season. I had high hopes but it seems that, for the most part, the offense never gelled.

  9. Huan on December 6th, 2015 6:51 pm

    looking forward to reading your review.

    i also want to thank you for your report on the lady jags soccer. after college football women soccer (NWSL) is my favorite sport.

  10. Brian on December 7th, 2015 8:35 am

    Thank you for reading, I haven’t had much time to write for football or soccer this year and didn’t get to cover soccer very much.

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