Jags Fall At Home To Idaho 29-23 In 2OT

September 24, 2017 · By · Filed Under Football, Sun Belt Conference 

Head coach Joey Jones talks with Xavier Johnson during warm ups after the first lightning delay. Johnson would gain 155 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns.

Everything that could go wrong in South Alabama’s conference opener, seemingly did in their 29-23 2OT loss to Idaho. Two lightning delays totaling over three hours of delay, causing a game that kicked off at 1pm to not finish until almost 8pm. Two badly called penalties took two pick-sixes off the scoreboard. A couple of late penalties and negative plays really hurt the Jags in their 29-23 loss to the Vandals.

Terrible officiating the players, coaches and fans equally. Two touchdowns called back on bad penalties. Yes, I see things through red, white, and blue tinted glasses but I will quickly agree when my first instincts about a call proves to be wrong. Unfortunately penalties cannot be challenged or reviewed in game except for targeting. Each team is allowed to send a preset number of plays to the Sun Belt office for review. I hope Coach Jones pretty much sends every single penalty and no-call to the conference office for review. Heck, I’ll volunteer to drive it over and hand deliver it to Karl Benson myself.

There were a number of time where linebacker Riley Cole had an offensive player pulling his jersey off of him with no call.

I don’t share the approach that a number of, mainly online posters, that Coach Jones should be fired. But I do believe that a change needs to occur at Offensive Coordinator. The offensive play calling has been questionable at time to say the least. Quarterback play hasn’t been the best and both of those fall on the same coach: Bryant Vincent. I hope that Jones’ loyalty to his assistant coaches is not his undoing.

Jones has architected a great program from day one on the job. He looked at a number of other programs who had started football and studied what they did well and what to try to avoid. Two programs that garnered lots of study were South Florida and Florida Atlantic.

Aside from questionable offensive play calling, the biggest factor in Jaguar struggles over the last couple of years has been injuries. Last season the entire starting defensive starting linemen were lost for the season before the season even started. Then others when the season started. That precipitated Jones bring in a different strength and conditioning coach. This season the team has looked better, but injuries in the secondary has caused a position with little depth to get even thinner. Last week a freshman cornerback returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown, then injured his knee on an interception.

Now off of my soap box. Here’s the remainder of the game review.

Jeremy Reaves led a Jaguar defense who played one hell of a game, but faltered towards the end of a game that lasted over seven hours due to lightning delays and double-overtime. Reaves had 12 tackles, 3 pass break-ups, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. But by the time regulation was winding down, the defense started to faulter due to time and effort expended physically and emotionally.

Reaves and the defense got started early with a forced fumble on the second offensive snap of the game. The offense capitalized on the good field position and converted the turnover into a touchdown.

The Vandals drove down to the Jaguar 11 before Linehan connected with Onunwor, but Reaves forced his second fumble of the game and recovered it at the 2 yard line. A few plays later the Jags gave it back to Idaho when Dallas Davis didn’t see the lineback dropping back in coverage and threw it where he could intercept it. After offsetting unsportsmanlike penalties, Idaho would punch the ball in to tie the game with 9:02 left until halftime.

USA would go three and out on their opening possession of the second half. After a 40-yard punt and a 10 yard return, Idaho started at their own 36. A personal foul on Reaves coupled with a 9 yard completion, put the ball at the Jags 36.

Then the first of the terrible officiating calls occurred. Finesse Middleton pressured Linehan into throwing the ball which Malcolm Buggs would pick off and return for a touchdown, but on several replays the penalty was obviously to most, not roughing the passer. But take a touchdown off the board anyway. The defense regrouped and held on 4th & 1 at the Jaguar 2 yard line forcing the turnover on downs.

Another of the blatantly terrible calls occurred on the first play of the last Idaho drive of the third quarter, Linehan’s pass would be tipped allowing Darrell Songy to intercept it and return it for a touchdown. But, again, a flag would take points off the board for defensive holding. Again the defense would regroup and hold on 4th & 1 at the USA 30 by forcing an incomplete pass.

Idaho started their game-tying drive with two big plays, a 20 yard run by Linehan and a 36 yard pass completion to Onunwor, to quickly get into Jag territory. But the Jag defense stiffed yet again and held them to a field goal to tie the game at 13-13.

After a two-and-a-half hour lightning delay, the Vandals faced a 2nd & 20 but a holding call right out of the gates make it 2nd & 30. The Jags would hold and force a punt, which was shanked out of bounds at the Vandal 40 yard line. On the third play of the drive, Davis handed the ball off to Xavier who took it 34 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.

The Jaguar defense bent some but held again on the next possession with a 6-yard sack on 3rd & 10. The Jags were set to try to keep possession and run out the clock with a big 13 yard run for a first down on 3rd & 2 was negated by an illegal formation penalty. Xavier could only manage 4 yard on the 3rd & 7 play forcing another punt.

Idaho took possession of the ball at their own 39 yard line with 1:30 left in the game. Linehan went 6-of-9 on the drive capped off with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Onunwar to tie the game up with just :13 left.

In overtime, the Jags held Idaho to a field goal. The Jags first possession started off with a bang when Johnson busted out a 14 yard run to the Vandal 11 only to have it called back when Jamarius Way was flagged for holding downfield on the run. On 1st & 6, Johnson ran for 5 yard before Tra Minter and Denzel Foster both lost yardage forcing the Jags into a field goal to tie and go to a second overtime period.

In the second possession, the Jags had a managable 3rd & 6 and still in Patterson’s career range, but a substitution infraction backed them up 5 yards. Patterson’s kick would have the distance but miss to the right.

Then another lightning delay occurred.

After resuming the game, Idaho kept the ball on the ground in Saunders hands. He started with a loss of two before gains of 3, 22 and then the 2-yard game-winning touchdown.

Johnson ended the game with 155 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns. Minter would add 59 yards on 15 carries. Evan Orth had one run for 41 yards. Davis went 11-of-25 for 106 yards with an interception.

Linehan was 23-of-38 for 273 yards and a touchdown. Onunwor caught 8 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown, Jacob Sannon caught 10 passes for 103 yards. Saunders rushed 18 times for 63 yards and a touchdown. Duckworth carried the ball 9 times for 56 yards and a touchdown as well.

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