Jags Host Sun Belt Leading Red Wolves On Senior Day

November 8, 2017 · By · Filed Under Football, Sun Belt Conference 

South Alabama (3-6, 2-3 SBC) will host conference front-runner Arkansas State (5-2, 4-0 SBC) in the Jags final home game of the season on Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Senior Day. The Jags have dropped their last two games and have their backs to the wall in order to get bowl eligible, needing to win their last three games.

But we can’t put the cart before the horse. They must focus on Arkansas State and Arkansas State only.

After two positive games on offense against Troy and Louisiana-Monroe, the Jaguar offense has struggled against Georgia State and Louisiana-Lafayette. Some of the struggles have been self-inflicted with dropped passes. The frustrating part is that it seems the breaks keep going to the other team.

In Monday’s press conference, head coach Joey Jones acknowledged that each quarterback, at times, has played better than the other. In the Troy game, Cole Garvin got the start but struggled giving way to Dallas Davis, who led the team to victory. Then against ULL, Davis struggled and Garvin led the team to move the ball better, but was unable to get the win.

Also Jones said that it was unlikely to see true freshman Cephus Johnson see action this season. “He has not worked with our offense during the season,” Jones said. “He has been on the scout team. It would be an injustice to him, probably. They [Lafayette] had two-and-a-half weeks to get him [Levi Lewis] ready for us. I thought that was a great choice by their staff. He did a great job, great athlete.

“It’s been a thought, because I think Cephus is going to be a great one. He’s going to be the face of our program one day. I just don’t think at this point, because of the inexperience factor.”

Whoever is behind center on Saturday, the Jags will have a challenge in front of them. The Red Wolves have only allowed eight touchdowns in their four conference games this season, or just an average of two touchdowns per game. They also lead the nation in sacks per game with 3.71 per game.

Leading the way for the ASU is senior defensive end Ja’von Rolland-Jones, the reigning SBC Player of the Year, who has 9.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks on the season, or just over a sack per game. He’s already broken the school record for career sacks and is only 5.5 behind the NCAA record of 44 in a career (note sacks did not become an official NCAA stat until 2000). Rolland-Jones has four sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss in his three games against the Jags.

The rest of the Red Wolves defensive line aren’t chopped liver either.

Defensive end Caleb Caston has five sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss on the season. Five other Red Wolves have multiple sacks this season as well.

Offensively, the Red Wolves do a good job spreading the ball around, but it all begins with quarterback Justice Hansen. Hansen is 170-for-265 this season with a 64.2% completion rate for 2,159 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He averages 308.4 yards passing per game.

But Hansen can also run. He is the teams second leading rusher with 259 yards on the season with a touchdown. He averages 4 yards per attempt and 37 yards per game.

Including Hansen, the Red Wolves have four runners with 195 yards or more on the season. They have a fifth rusher who has 98 yards on the season on 14 attempts.

Receiving, the Red Wolves spread the ball around too. They have seven receivers with over 100 yards receiving on the season, and 25 touchdowns amongst them. Of those seven, five of them have 20 or more catches on the season.

Offensively ASU is only converting about 40% of their 3rd down attempts on the season and average time of possession per game is a mere 26:28.

They score an average of 40.4 points per game and only allow 22.3 points per game. Their 465.9 yards per game of total offense breaks down to 142.6 yards rushing and 323.3 yards passing per game.

Opposing teams complete 50.7% of their passing attempts with ASU intercepting 8 passes on the season. Their defense has forced 15 fumbles of which they have recovered six of them. The Red Wolves have fumbled 11 times and lost four of them to their opponents. They also average 70.7 yards per game in penalties.

In last weeks game against New Mexico State, the Red Wolves trailed 14-7 at halftime and held a mere 17-14 lead after three quarters, but broke the game open in the fourth quarter to win 37-21.

By comparison, the Jags average 347.1 yards of total offense per game, with 124.3 yards rushing and 222.8 yards passing per game. They average 21.9 points per game, while the opponents average 25 points per game. Also on the season the Jags are converting 31% of their 3rd down attempts.

While the Jags have only fumbled seven times on the season and only lost one of those, defensively they have forced 16 fumbles and recovered 10 of them. The Jags average 59.4 penalty yards per game.

ASU has 26 sacks on the season for 162 yards while they have allowed 16 sacks for a loss of 88 yards. The Jags have sacked opposing quarterbacks 13 times for 87 yards while Jaguar quarterbacks have been sacked 16 times for 125 yards.

What do the Jags need to do to win:

Score points. Ultimately, they have to put points on the board. Earlier the better too. Whoever is under center, be it Davis, Garvin or Orth, they will have to get rid of the ball quickly when throwing and those passes will be short to intermediate throws. But in order to slow down the pass rush or blitzes, they need to run effectively and be able to run screens and/or draw plays that neutralizes the rush.

Execute. Probably as obvious as scoring points, the offense just has to execute. They have to fight to win each and every play and each player has to execute their assignment on each play. The offensive line has to open some holes for their runners and protect the passer. Receivers have to catch the ball when it hits their hands.

Play their assignments. Defensively, each player must play their assignment too. Against Louisiana-Lafayette, there were two or three blown coverages where defenders were trying to move up and help their teammate with their assignments. Two of them were for touchdowns. Though they corrected it at halftime, they had already given up 19 points and were able to shut them out in the second half.

Don’t fall behind by multiple scores early. The Jags may have to prepare themselves for a shootout because the Red Wolves can score and can score quickly. The defense will have to bring their A-Game as usual but they’ll need help from the offense to let them get some rest. Three-and-outs on offense will not help the Jaguar defense slow down the Red Wolves.

This Jaguar team can win the game. They may be a 12 point underdog to most, but they are talented and they have it where it counts. Lots of momentum for the season was dashed in their first conference game this season when referee calls negated two pick-sixes along with a host of other questionable calls led to the Jags falling in double-overtime to Idaho. Though the slightest of I-told-you-so’s occurred when the officials were reviewed and determined that they blew some calls in the game. Unfortunately that was a couple days too late, a complete disservice to the student-athletes who prepare and play in every week, and a disservice to the coaches who’s job is on the line based on the number of Wins and Losses they post.

The Jags have been in this position before, needing to win out to get bowl eligible and they have accomplished that too. But they can’t think that way right now. This week they have to go 1-0. To do that they have to fight to win on each and every play of the game. Play to win the next play, forget about the results of the previous play.

The Jags and the Red Wolves have kickoff scheduled for 4pm on Saturday, November 11 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium for Senior Day. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3 as well as on the flagship radio station 96.1 FM and 99.5 FM The Jag, which is also available via the iHeartRadio app.

Go Jags!

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