Jags Pick Up First Conference Win; Preview of ULM
Forth quarter heroics propelled the Jaguars to a 13-10 win over Georgia State on Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
The game was a tale of two defenses. Each defense caused problems for the opposing offenses as neither team really ran the ball well nor did they throw the ball particularly well.
That is until the Jaguars started playing with urgency in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars took possession of the ball at their own 8 yard line with 11:03 on the clock. The drive began with a 15 yard pass completion to Gerald Everett then the Jaguars started a “death march. Six consecutive rushes that moved the ball from the USA 23 to the Panther 24 before the first negative play of the drive. And it was nearly disastrous as quarterback Dallas Davis was in the shotgun, but the center’s snap was as if he was under center.
After getting behind the down and distance, back-to-back incompletions gave head coach Joey Jones a very interesting choice to make: attempt a field goal and close within 4 points or go for it on 4th and 11 to keep the drive alive.
Jones opted to go for broke and it paid off. Davis’ pass to Everett was caught about five yards short of the first down marker, but Everett turned and accelerated upfield, broke tackles and willed a first down on a 14 yard gain.
The drive ended with three more runs for a game-tying touchdown.
Brandon McKee, who earned Sun Belt Conference honors for his play, pinned the Panthers at their own 9 yard line with 1:28 left in the game. After a flag for roughing the quarterback, Finesse Middleton came up with an 11 yard sack with :51 left and the Jags used their final time out to force a punt.
Then for the third time in the game, Brandon Wright shanked a punt. The kick sailed out of bounds at the 31 yards, a mere 18 yards.
With only :44 on the clock, no time outs and after already missing field goal in the game the Jags had the ball in a 10-10 tie.
After two runs, the Jags were flagged for a false start. Then Xavier Johnson took the ball and came up short of the first down. With the clock running, the offense came to the line of scrimmage and spiked the ball with :06 left. Gavin Patterson came onto the field for a 30 yard attempt. After Panther head coach Trent Miles called both of his remaining time outs, Patterson drilled the kick to take a 13-10 lead with just two seconds left.
The sky kick to the sideline hit off a Panther’s hands and out of bounds. After an official review, they put one second on the clock but the Jaguars prevent defense and three man rush were enough to knock down the ball short of the end zone and give the Jaguars their first conference win.
South Alabama gained only 306 yards, 182 of it through the air. The Panthers gained 240 yards with 127 of them on the ground. Xavier Johnson led the Jags with 83 yards rushing while Everett was the leading receiver with four catches for 49 yards.
But the game MVP and deserved the SBC Special Teams Player of the Week honor was McKee who downed all four of his punts inside the 20. Corliss Waitman punted once for 53 yards and also downed his inside the 20.
Now the Jaguars look to build on their first conference win with a trip to Louisiana-Monroe, who is 2-6 on the season and hoping to keep their bowl chances alive under rookie head coach Matt Viator.
The Warhawks offense has suffered since losing their multi-dimensional quarterback for the season two weeks ago as they have been outscored 110-27 by New Mexico and Arkansas State.
Playing two young quarterbacks, a redshirt freshman and a true freshman, the Warhawks are trying to something that works.
USA did not have any serious injuries for what seemed like the first time all season against the Panthers. The Jags unprecedented list of injured began when they lost all three starting defensive linemen in summer camp, then lost during the season and then lost their leading tackler Kalen Jackson for the season against Troy. Couple that with turf toe injury to your starting quarterback, an undisclosed injury to Josh Magee, a couple injuries to Xavier Johnson that led him to miss playing time and losing the starting left guard and it’s amazing to think that they have wins over Mississippi State and then 19th ranked San Diego State under their belt this season already.
If the Jaguars can get their running game established early and the swarm defense can cause their normal distractions then the Jaguars should have a great opportunity to get back above .500 and one game closer to bowl eligibility.
Oh and let’s stay healthy too. That’s probably the biggest key.