Jags Defeat NMSU 35-28 And Earn Second Bowl Birth
The Jaguars now get to play the waiting game.
With the 35-28 win over New Mexico State, the Jags are assured a bowl birth, unlike three seasons ago when the Jags were bowl eligible and on the outside looking in for a bowl (which they wouldn’t get). This season they are assured they are getting a bowl as bowl tie-ins are chaotic to say the least.
As of writing this, ESPN projects the Jags to play Air Force in the Arizona Bowl on December 30. However, that is only speculation at this point. Until the bowl match-ups are announced, the Jags could be going just about anywhere.
Everyone should be proud of what South Alabama has accomplished by earning this bowl birth. They overcame numerous injuries (10 starters among others) to get here. No other has gone to two bowl games in their first four FBS seasons.
Now, for the game itself.
South Alabama found themselves trailing New Mexico State in the fourth quarter but were not going to fall short of bowl eligibility for a second consecutive season.
A run of 21 unanswered points started with Dallas Davis connecting with senior Josh Magee for a 76 yard, game-tying touchdown. But if you ask head coach Joey Jones or quarterback Dallas Davis, the play of the game may have come on the next Jaguar possession. Davis dropped back to pass and had the pocket collapsing around him. Davis found an opening sprinted for it, then Magee made a key block on the outside which allowed Davis to get the first down and extend the drive.
The Jaguars opened the scoring on their second possession when, on the second play, Davis handed off to Xavier Johnson and he found an opening and took the ball 51 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown.
The Aggies would answer in the second quarter after a quarterback change. Conner Cramer would find an opening and scamper 50 yards, then on the next play he would give it to running back Larry Rose who took it 30 yards to the end zone and just like that it was a tie game all over again.
The Aggies were close in on another score after Rose ran for 51 yards but was tripped up at the 7 yard line by Neiko Robinson on the biggest play of the first half. Two plays later Neiko would force a fumble at the Jaguar 6 yard line which Quinton Dent recovered and allow the Jags to run the time out in the half after trying to make an attempt at a couple big plays to get some points on the board before halftime.
The Aggies began the second half with the ball but Devon Earl picked off Cramer at the Jaguar 26 and returned it 23 yards to the 49, but an Aggie penalty placed the ball at the Aggie 34. Then a heavy dose of Xavier and Dami with Magee completion and a Davis first down run, would put the Jags on top 14-7.
The Aggies would tie it up and take the lead early in the fourth quarter. On the ensuing kickoff a trio of offsetting unsportsmanlike penalties were called then Davis found Magee for the tying touchdown.
After forcing a three and out, the Jags demonstrated their ground game dominance with another steady dose of Xavier and Dami but a key run by Davis for 29 yards on 2nd and 18 kept the drive alive and eventually into the end zone to retake the lead.
On the next Jaguar possession, Davis to Gerald Everett got the possession started with a 24 yard hookup, then it would be capped off by Xavier finding a hole in the middle of the Aggie defense, getting tripped, recovering and taking it to the house for a 35-21 lead with 2:28 left in the game.
The Aggies would add one more score to make in interesting but the Jags hands team handled the onsides kick perfectly to seal the game.
The Jags ended the game with 521 yards of total offense, 282 on the ground and 239 through the air. The Aggies finished with 463 total yards, 353 of it through the air.
Xavier Johnson finished with 154 yards rushing on 21 attempts and three touchdowns. Dallas Davis added 82 yards on 11 carries and Dami Ayoola had 64 on 14 carries with a touchdown.
Davis was 16-of-28 passing with two interceptions and a touchdown. Magee had 135 yards on four catches and a touchdown. Everett caught six passes for 69 yards. Kevin Kutchera caught three for 21 yards and Grant Powell, Mseiah Francis and Xavier all caught one pass each.
Of Brandon McKee’s four punts, three of them were downed inside the 20.
For the Aggies, Larry Rose III was their leading rusher with 170 yards and two touchdowns while Conner Cramer added 110 yards and a touchdown.
Cramer went 7-of-15 for a 95 yards, a touchdown and an interception while Tyler Rogers, who started the game, finished 4-of-10 for 15 yards and an interception. Jonathan Boone was the top Aggie receiver with two catches for 47 yards and a touchdown.
See you at the bowl game!
Also apologies for missing reviews on the last couple of games but life got busy and this is currently one of my several side-gigs.