The Jags needed a defensive stop and a drive in the final minutes of regulation to force overtime against the Colonels. Which they did.
Then in overtime, the Jaguars knew both defenses were tired so they ran the ball between the tackles, converting a critical 4th and inches on the drive, all the way to the endzone on the opening possession of overtime.
Nichols first play from scrimmage on their overtime position gashed the Jaguar defense for a big gain. They would eventually punch it into the end zone, but they were not going to go into another overtime period. It was going to end one way or another in the first OT.
On the first 2-point conversion attempt, the Jag defending seemingly intercepted the ball in the endzone but an offsides penalty gave Nichols a second chance from the one-and-a-half yard line. The Jaguar defense was ready for the run and stopped it cold preserving the 41-40 win.
The USA players will have plenty of film to review this week. They should pay close attention to how Nichols took advantage of every Jaguar mishap. It’s not often that a team can overcome four interceptions one a pick-six, a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown, and a kickoff recovered by the the opposing team.
The Jags dominated in offensive stats: 510 total yards to 230, 208 rushing yards to 161, 302 passing yards to 69, 24 first downs to 12, time of possession 32:16 to 27:44, 8-of-19 on third down to 3-of-13.
But the stat that ultimately determines the outcome was 41-40.
After the Colonels won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, the Jags opened with a 95 yard kickoff return by Xavier Johnson to take a 7-0 only :12 into the game.
Dami Ayoola would score for the Jags very early in the second quarter on a 3 yard run to make it 14-0. The Colonels would return the kickoff 77 yards to the Jaguar 20 but Randy Allen would deliver a painful hit to quarterback Chase Fourcade forcing a fumble that was recovered by Kalen Jackson.
The celebration was short lived though because on the very next play Dallas Davis’ pass is tipped and it falls right into Nichol’s players hands and there was no one in position to catch him.
Momentum had definitely shifted in favor of the visitors after a 49-yard field goal attempt was blocked and returned for a touchdown to tie the game up at 14-14. Later a pooch kick would be captured by Nichols in Jaguar territory to help make the 2nd quarter a nightmare for the Jaguars.
Dallas Davis was 25-for-50 with one touchdown and four interceptions and 302 yards. Xavier Johnson finished with 103 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns. Tyrone Williams lead with 6 catches for 64 yards and a touchdown. Kevin Kutchera was huge with 4 catches fro 86 yards.
Now the Jags can correct what they see on film this week as they prepare to host their first top-25 ranked team in the nation when the San Diego State Azetecs arrive. The Aztecs look to revenge their loss to the Jags last season, which is the last game they dropped since then, giving them the 2nd longest winning streak in the nation behind Alabama.
The Jags will have to play a clean game, they can’t commit four turnovers and do what they did on special teams and expect to win.
Elijah McGuire led the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns with 223 yards rushing and past the Jags (1-2, 0-2 Sun Belt) 28-23 at Cajun field.
It was a game of big plays.
After a halftime score of 9-7 in favor of Lafayette, the Cajuns scored on plays of 71- and 68-yards in the second half as they outgained South Alabama 512-338 in the game.
It was looking dire with 4:46 left in the third quarter with the Jaguars trailing 22-7 but a 31-yard pass to Kutchera got the offense in gear. A few plays later and quarterback Dallas Davis connected with tight end Grant Powell for an 18-yard touchdown to make it 22-14.
Two plays later Neiko Robinson intercepted the Cajuns pass at the Lafayette 32. Facing third and goal at the 3, the Jags lined up in the wildcat with Tryeis Thomas and Lafayette called a time out to adjust their defense accordingly. The Jags came back with the same formation and Thomas was dropped for a three yard loss. Head coach Joey Jones settled for a field goal to chip away at the Cajun lead at 22-17.
On the next possession, the Jags defense forced another turnover, this time Jeremy Reaves earned the interception at the Jaguar 32 yard line.
McKee pinned the Cajuns at their own 11 yard line but a few plays later McGuire found a hole up the middle of the Jaguar offense and took it 68 yards for a touchdown. The two-point conversion failed leaving the Jaguars with an elevent point deficit at 28-17.
After trading possessions, the Jags got their offense in gear again with a 34-yard pass from Dallas Davis to Quinton Lane. Two plays later Davis would connect with Gerald Everett for the touchdown. The two point conversion also failed for the Jags leaving them down 28-23.
Unfortunately, the Jags defense couldn’t get the ball back to the offense for one last shot.
Defensively, the Jags are definitely missing their three injured defensive linemen. What promised to be a strong position with depth suddenly became thin and inexperienced in less than a week during preseason camp.
Offensively, the Jags were inconsistent for a chunk in the middle of the game and the defense got winded opened the door for some of the big plays.
The Jags will look to regroup against Nicholls State next week in the first of a two game home stand. The Colonels lost a close game last week to Georgia 26-24. They need to get more consistent before San Diego State arrives the week after.
The Eagles rushed for 304 yards in the game, yet the Jaguar defense only allowed 24 points in the contest. However the Jaguar offense was unable to find the end zone and could only muster three field goals.
Early in the game the Jaguars, who were already thin on defense, lost Devon Earl after being leveled by a violent blind-side block. In addition, the Jags had other players shaken up at times during the game further compounding the Jaguars woes defensively throughout the game.
But coach Wommack and his players never gave up and were able to hold the Eagles to only 24 points unlike last seasons 55-17 beatdown.
Roman Buchanan, who had a career game with 13 total tackles, said after the game that “There are no moral victories…”, but there was marked improvement on defense.
Offensively the Jaguars were hindered all evening by a stingy Georgia Southern defense who seemed to always be in the right place and delivered some punishing hits.
South Alabama finished the game with 352 yards of offense, only 73 of them were on the ground. Meanwhile the Eagles rolled up 441 yards with 137 of them through the air.
Late in the game the Jaguars were driving to make it a one-score game, but Dallas Davis’ floating pass to the right side of the end zone was picked off fof his first interception of the season.
The Jags (1-1, 0-1 SBC) will travel to Louisiana Lafayette (1-1, 0-0 SBC) looking for their first conference win of the season.
Barely 24 hours removed from the Jaguars most significant win in the short history of the program, it’s still surreal.
Just a few years ago it was a hope and a dream. Today it’s another mark in Jaguar history.
I told people after the Jaguars first trip to Starkville in 2012 and they played with heart and determination but fell 30-10 that I truly believed that South Alabama would take one of the two remaining games against the Bulldogs.
Offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent entered the game with the knowledge that the Mississippi State defense was susceptible. Everett and Magee played for him at UAB and they gave the Bulldogs just about everything they could handle, but they came up short. This was his opportunity to try again.
The South Alabama defense, in their first game under the direction of defensive coordinator Kane Wommack and his swarm defense, came out and forced the Bulldog offense into three-and-outs in their first two possessions. But a change at quarterback sparked Mississippi State on their third possession when he completed his first pass for a 19 yard gain into Jaguar territory. A few plays later and the Bulldogs would find the endzone for a 7-0 lead.
The Jaguars under the leadership of sophomore Dallas Davis at quarterback would gash the secondary with some big gains like a 29 yard completion to Gerald Everett to start their drive and completions to Josh Magee for 25 and Tyrone Williams for 12. But their first scoring attempt of a 37 yard field goal from the right hashmark would bounce off of the left upright no good.
Mississippi State would capitalize on the opportunity however. Fred Ross would take the handoff on the first snap 46 yards to the Jaguar 34 and put the Jag defense on their heels. A few plays later and the Bulldogs had put another touchdown on the board to go up 14-0.
After stopping the Jags on their next possession, the Jags narrowly missed recovering a Bulldog mishap after Corliss Waitman’s punt hit off the helmet of a Bulldog blocker at the 35 and taking a Jaguar bounce to the 16, but the same player who caused the fumble would recover the ball.
MSU would drive down to the Jaguar 20 yard line but had to settle for a field goal to make it a 17 point lead.
The Jaguars starting on their own 25 would be led by Dallas Davis again with big completions to Everett for a 23-yards and back-to-back runs by Davis for 3 and 11 yards. Then Davis would connect with Everett against for another 24-yards getting down to the Bulldog 11 yard line. The drive would stall at the 8 yard line and like deja vu the 25-yard field goal would bounce off the right upright leaving the Jags scoreless again.
The Jags came out from halftime with a different demeanor, and it was evident even before the kickoff.
Dallas Davis picked up where he left off in the first half starting off with a 25-yard completion to Magee yards to put the ball at midfield.
After that the Jags did something they couldn’t do in the first half consistently: they began running the ball.
Davis ended the drive in similar fashion as the drive began, Davis to Magee, this time it was a 20-yard touchdown with three Bulldog defenders covering him. Suddenly the Bulldog lead was down to 17-7 and new life in the Jaguars.
Mississippi State would answer with a drive themselves, but this time the Jaguar’s swarm defense stiffened after being gashed on a couple plays and helped by a holding penalty.
Then another sign that the Jaguars were not ready to give up. They started to get pressure on the quarterback.
Two incomplete passes with Damian Williams being hurried caused Dan Mullen to settle for a 48-yard field goal to put the lead at 20-7 with 6:35 left in the third quarter.
The Bulldog special teams had the Jags pinned inside their own 1 yard line with 2:30 left in the quarter. Davis would hand off to Thomas and it looked as if the MSU defense had him stopped for a safety but the shifty Thomas shrugged off the would-be tackler and found room up the middle before cutting to his right towards the sideline for 37 yard gain and giving the offense breathing room. Thomas was only a step or two away from breaking it all the way to the endzone.
Facing 4th and 2 at the Jaguar 47 time would expire in the third quarter.
I don’t know if this even made a difference, but as the teams were swapping sides a well known was played in the stadium.
It was an odd choice for a home team leading 20-7. It was almost as if the mighty SEC team was taunting the little, upstart South Alabama Jaguars. The team some said shouldn’t even be on the field with a team like Mississippi State.
They played what might have been considered an innocent 35 year old song by a band named Journey: “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
Just about everyone in the stadium sang along. how can you refrain from lifting your voice whenever it’s played. It may simply be a tradition like Alabama would play “Sweet Home Alabama”.
“Just a small town girl. Livin’ in a lonely world. She took the midnight train goin’ anywhere….”
Davis started the fourth quarter with a six yard completion to Everett on that 4th and 2 play to extend the drive. Two plays later a 23-yard completion to Magee and a gift of 13 yard penalty for a personal foul put the Jags at the Bulldog 12 yard line. Dallas would run for 4 yards to the 8. An offsides on MSU would then put it at the 4 yard line. Then Thomas would take the handoff and punch it in the endzone to make it 20-14 with 12:43 left in the game.
“Just a city boy. Born and raised in south Detroit. He took the midnight train goin’ anywhere.”
The Jaguar defense kept up their pressure with quarterback hurries and tight coverage. A pair of Jaguar penalties would aid the Bulldogs but a holding penalty would put MSU behind the down and distance and the Jaguars forced a punt.
“Working hard to get my fill, everybody wants a thrill.”
The Jags went three and out, but the faith never wavered in the stands or the sidelines. MSU with gains of 13 and 23 put them at the Jaguar 21.
Then the Bulldogs faced a 3rd and 10 and again the swarm defense dialed up the pressure and Randy Allen and Tyree Turner sacked Williams for an eight yard loss. Westin Graves misses the field goal attempt from 46 yards wide left.
“Payin’ anything to roll the dice just one more time.”
Davis starts the drive at the Jaguar 29 with back-to-back incompletions intended for Everett. Then on 3rd and 10 he found Kevin Kutchera for 37 yards to the Bulldog 34 yard line.
“Some will win, some will lose. Some were born to sing the blues.”
Facing 3rd and 3 at the Bulldog 27, head coach Joey Jones calls a time out with 3:43 left in the game. After the time out, Davis takes the snap and ran up the middle, hurdled a defender, and eventually went down at the Bulldog 8 yard line. First down Jaguars and the clock keeps running.
“Don’t stop believin'”
Facing 3rd and goal at the 4 Davis steps back and calmly throws a pass to Gerald Everett between two defenders for the the touchdown to tie the game. The contingent of Jaguar fans erupt in jubilant celebration. Gavin Patterson drills the extra point.
Jaguars lead Mississippi state 21-20 in Starkville with :57 left in the game.
Corliss Waitman’s kick would roll out of bound giving Mississippi State an opportunity with the ball on the 35 and still :57 left. The Bulldogs were not going to roll over just yet.
Williams would find Donald Gray for 14 yards to the 49 yard line and got out of bounds to stop the clock. Holloway would run for 8 yards and out of bounds again to stop the clock. Williams to Ross for a loss of one yard and MSU spends a time out with :40 left. Only 17 seconds off the clock.
Williams pass to Gray for eight yards and a first down at the Jaguar 36. Another pass to Holloway for four yards and out of bounds to stop the clock again. Williams would call his own number for 13 yards before Nigel Lawrence stopped him at the Jaguar 19. Williams called his own number again for two more yards then coach Mullen calls a time out with :12 left. Williams runs again for 6 yards to the 11 and the Bulldogs call their final time out with :09 left to attempt the game winning kick.
With the Jaguar fans chanting “Block that kick”, the ball is snapped, Graves put his foot to the leather the ball flies and hits the left upright. He hooked it. The Bulldog fans left in the endzone all fall as if they were struck by lightning. The Jaguars bench empties out onto the field with coach Jones leading the way.
After getting the players off of the field, Dallas Davis took one last snap and kneeled down to allow the clock to expire, the Jags were able to celebrate again.
“Hold on to that feelin'”
Standing in the stands after never missing a home game and traveling to the away games I was able to attent, it was an honor to watch this programs’ biggest victory to date in person. I was emotional. I teared up. I didn’t know what to say other than chant USA with the rest of the fans.
It was years in the making.
It started with Coach Jones and players who believed in his vision even before there was building to house them or a field to practice on. Coach Jones in all of his post-game interviews from SEC Network, to Jaguar Radio, to addressing the crowd gathered to welcome them home at the fieldhouse and again Sunday morning on Fox 10 in Mobile: he praised the players, their character and their heart.