National Signing Day 2018

February 7, 2018 · By · Filed Under Football, National Signing Day, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 

Most of Coach Steve Campbell’s staff have now officially been on the job for exactly two months and it all culminated with National Signing Day.

Back in December, the Jags signed 10 student-athletes during the first-ever early signing period for football. Those were signed a mere 12 days after Campbell took over as the Jaguars head football coach.

Since Campbell began, he has been evaluating where the needs were on the team and looking to shore up his squad for the 2018 season. Of the 10 early signees in December, eight of them were defensive players.

Whatever you want to now call this day: Spring signing day, late signing period, or the tradition ‘national signing day, the Jags were more offensive minded. Of the 13 that were signed, 11 of them were offensive student-athletes.

Out of the 13, two of them are considered blue shirts and three are preferred walk-ons.

Blue shirts are players that are not formally or officially recruited but are put on scholarship at start of freshman practice, which means they never had an official visit, however they could have payed their own way and visited campus as an “unofficial” visit. These players can be counted towards next years scholarship total.

What’s the difference between a walk-on and a preferred walk-on you ask? Well, when Football Scoop asked coaches what that term meant, nine out of 10 answered that a preferred walk-on (PWO) are guaranteed a spot on the 105 man roster on day one of camp. While traditional walk-ons will have to go through tryouts to see if they can earn a spot on the 105 man roster. PWO’s are also in a better place to earn a scholarship, but normally that will not happen until their junior year due to NCAA rules to limit “oversigning”.

Overall, Campbell and his staff put together a pretty good class in a short time. They addressed needs but they missed out on some of their big targets, primarily at running back, but ended up signing some quality athletes.

Twelve of the 23 signees came from the state of Alabama with the rest coming from five other states. Five of the recruits were rated as 3-star recruits by 247Sports, including quarterback Desmond Trotter who is the grandson of former Alabama star, College and NFL Hall of Famer, and Baltimore Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome. Two athletes were rated as two-star recruits.

While the recruiting sites primarily focus on the very top of the recruiting rankings, Rivals was at least the easiest to look at rankings for the Sun Belt. Based on their formula, Arkansas State lands the top spot with the Jags landing 9th out of 11 on the list.

Rivals full SBC Rankings:
1. Arkansas State (75th nationally)
2. Georgia State (86th nationally)
3. Troy (95th nationally)
4. Texas State (96th nationally)
5. Louisiana-Monroe (98th nationally)
6. Georgia Southern
7. Appalachian State
8. New Mexico State
9. South Alabama
10. Idaho
11. Louisiana-Lafayette (only signed 13 student-athletes)

South Alabama will begin their spring schedule in March culminating in the annual Red-Blue Spring Game on Saturday, April 14th at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

Go Jags!

Happy New Year Jag Nation!

December 31, 2017 · By · Filed Under Uncategorized · Comment 

As the book closes on 2017 and we open the book on 2018, we at Thunderjags wish you a great New Year! Go Jags!

South Alabama Announces Steve Campbell As New Head Football Coach

December 7, 2017 · By · Filed Under Football · 2 Comments 

Steve Campbell, 51 and native of Pensacola, FL., will be officially introduced as the new head football coach replacing Joey Jones who announced his resignation on November 20th. | Photo Credit: University of Central Arkansas

South Alabama has hired it’s second head coach in program history. Today the school announced that Steve Campbell, 51 and a Pensacola native, had been selected to head up the Jaguar football program.

Campbell’s coaching career began under legendary Auburn head coach Pat Dye where he helped the Tigers win back-to-back SEC titles as a graduate assistant. His first full-time position was in 1990 at Delta State University as offensive line coach. He worked his way up to offensive coordinator before departing for the same position at Nicholls State in 1993.

In 1997 Campbell took his first head coaching position with Southwest Mississippi Community College (JC), where he had spent the previous season coaching the running backs. In two seasons he went 12-8 and lead the school to it’s first winning season in 12 years.

Campbell then returned to Delta State as head coach in 1999 where he earned a 27-8 record over three seasons. His no-huddle offense broke 12 Gulf South Conference records and six Division II records. In 2000, he won the Division II National Championship and earned Nation Coach of the Year by three organizations.

In 2002, Campbell became offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Middle Tennessee State and scored a win over in-state rival Vanderbilt. In 2003 he served as offensive line coach under Jackie Sherrill in his last season at Mississippi State.

In 2004, Campbell returned to a head coaching position with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. We went 87-22 over 10 seasons after inheriting a team that went 6-12 in two seasons under his predecessor and had not made the state playoffs since 1986. Campbell led them to NJCAA Junior College Co-National Championship in 2007. A number of his players went on to play at SEC schools, most notably Terrence Cody at Alabama.

By 2008, Campbell started to get noticed for other positions. He was a finalist for the head coaching position at Northwestern State but was not selected.

In 2009 he had led the MGCCC Bulldogs to a 9-2 record after losing 75-71 in the MACJC State Championship game, ending their bid for three-straight MACJC titles. He was considered for an offensive line assistant position at Auburn that year under Gene Chizik but was not selected.

In 2010, Campbell led MGCCC to a 10-2 record, the two losses were by a combined six points. They won over Co-Lin in the MACJC Championship game and had a 62-53 win over #3 Grand Rapids in the Mississippi Bowl, which set a record for combined points in the game.

In 2014, Campbell took the head coaching position at Central Arkansas in the Southland Conference and went 6-6 in his first season. After a 7-4 record in his second season he then led the Bears to back-to-back 10 win seasons but each time lost in the second round of the FCS playoffs.

Campbell has a record of 27-8 at the Division II level and 33-15 at the FCS level.

As a player, he started at center in 43 consecutive games for Southeastern Louisiana and Troy State University. He was part of the 1987 Troy State team to win the Division II National Championship and was named to the All-Gulf South Conference first team. He was named an Academic All-Conference three times and graduated Cum Laude from Troy State with a bachelor’s in Economics. He earned a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Auburn as well.

In a press release from South Alabama, Director of Athletics Dr. Joel Erdmann had the following to say: “When the search began we identified the experience, qualities and characteristics we were looking for. We searched for a leader who has demonstrated success and possesses a vision for the program with the plan to communicate and achieve that vision. As the search progressed, it became clear that Coach Campbell had what we were looking for. He became the primary target and accepted the offer. He is a proven college head football coach who has achieved consistent success in various settings with different programs. Coach Campbell possesses coaching expertise, high school and junior college recruiting relationships, and a contagious passion for the game of football. He is well-respected by his peers and at the core of his identify is a man of character and deep values.

“I am proud and excited to have Steve as the leader of our program, and look forward to working together to achieve great things.”

Also in the press release, Campbell had the following to say: “I was born and raised in this area, just down the road outside of Pensacola, and have always felt that if South Alabama started football it would be a gold mine, a place where the sky is the limit and you can definitely compete for championships at the highest level. Coach Jones did a terrific job of getting the program started and laying a tremendous foundation. This is an opportunity to get back home and, more than that, to take what Joey has started and raise it to the next level and win some championships.”

South Alabama will hold a press conference on Friday at 1pm in the Football Fieldhouse to officially introduce Campbell as the Jaguars head football coach and it is open to the public. JagNationTv will have live video coverage and 99.5 FM The Jag will have radio coverage of the announcement as well.

Jags Fall In Season Finale On Last Minute Touchdown

December 3, 2017 · By · Filed Under Football, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 

Head coach Joey Jones leading the team in the Jaguar Prowl in 2010.

South Alabama was unable to send the 19 seniors and head coach Joey Jones out with a final win in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The Jags finish the season 4-8 after the 22-17 defeat after the Aggies scored in the final minute of the game to regain the lead and ultimately the win.

The Jags took a 7-0 lead to start the second quarter then the Aggies scored 13 consecutive points to end the first half. The Jags had an opportunity to score a touchdown before the end of the first half after Garvin found Kawaan Baker for an 18 yard gain down to the two yard line, but a personal foul on Harrison Louden put the Jags back at the 17 yard line. Then the Jaguars went in reverse after Jordan McCray stepped out of bounds for a 9 yard loss on a reverse followed by an 11 yard sack and fumble that rolled out of bounds at the at the 40 yard line of the Aggies. A personal foul after the fumble gave the Jags 15 yards and an automatic first down at the Aggie 25. A pass to Reinkemeyer for a loss of a yard followed by Garvin being sacked for a loss of 3 set the Jags up for a 3rd & 14. Garvin’s pass, when it looked like he was just trying to throw it away, but he couldn’t get enough on it and it was intercepted on the sideline at the 24 ending the threat.

The Aggies opened the fourth quarter with a field goal to take a 16-7 lead before the Jags started began their comeback. With 11:49 left in the game, Cole Garvin found Jordan McCray for a 17 yard touchdown to cut the lead to two points.

The Aggies were facing a 4th & 4 at the Jaguar 17 and decided to go for it but the Jaguar defense forced an incomplete pass and took over the ball. Garvin complete four-consecutive passes for 10, 3, 19 and 42 yards with all but the third pass going to Jamarius Way, the third pass was to McCray. A few plays later, facing a 3rd and goal from the 10, Garvin targeted Malik Stanley but he couldn’t haul it in and Jones opted for a go-ahead field goal making it 17-16 with 3:13 left in the game.

The Aggies dinked and dunked their way down the field until Tyler Rogers connected with Grand Bay, Alabama native Conner Cramer in the back of the end zone for the go-ahead score. Their 2-point conversion attempt was no good leaving the Aggies nursing a 22-17 lead with :32 left in the game.

NMSU had the kickoff go out of bounds which would have put the ball at the USA 35 yard line with :32 left, but Jones and his staff decided to make them rekick it from the 30 yard line. The Jags attempted to set up a throw-back across the field but the throw didn’t have enough power behind it and skipped back allowing the defenders to close in, all the while with the clock running. Finally the Jags took over at the 27 yard line with :24 left.

Garvin found David Garner along the left sideline for an 11 yard gain. Garvin then kept it up the middle but short of a first down forcing the Jags to call their final time out with :12 left. After another incomplete pass, Garvin threw what was close enough to a hail mary attempt with the pass tipped by the defender and the bounce went away from Jamarius Way, if it had tipped the other way, he could have been able to cruise into the end zone for the game winning touchdown.

However, that did not happen and the Jags fell to 4-8 on the season while New Mexico State looks to be going to their first bowl game since 1960.

And with that head coach Joey Jones’ tenure at South Alabama comes to and end. Jones finishes 52-50 in nine season as the architect of the Jaguar football program since his hiring in 2008 and their first play in 2009.

Senior Jeremy Reaves became only the second defensive back in Jaguar history to record 100 or more stops in a season.

Jones spoke after the game in his final post-game press conference:
On the game itself: “All I wanted for us to do coming into this game was to fight and I thought we did that. We came up a little short. [New Mexico State’s] quarterback is a great player and made some plays on their last drive. With about five minutes left, they had a third-and-10 and he hit it. On their touchdown play, he was able to scramble around and made a great throw. It really wasn’t anything that our guys did wrong, but rather what [NMSU] did right. I was proud of our guys fighting tonight.”
On offensive adjustments in the second half: “We just executed better. In the first half, we dropped some passes. We also got down to the one and got a penalty, which brought the ball back and hurt us trying to score. Other than that, we played pretty well. I told the guys a halftime, that if we just keep running our offense, we’ll be ok.”
on his defenses play against running back Larry Rose III and forcing the Aggies to go to the air to win: “Our coaches did a great job calling plays defensively. Rose is a heck of a running back. We wanted to make NMSU throw the ball, but unfortunately Tyler Rogers is a very good quarterback. Our hats are off to New Mexico State.”

Jeremy Reaves spoke after the game as well:
On the game: “We fought and that’s all coach [Joey Jones] asked for. We fought for 60 minutes and the score didn’t reflect it, but I’m happy with the way our guys fought considering this was my last game here.”
On what the defense did to take New Mexico State’s running game away: “We knew that Rose was an electric player and that he was going to make plays. We also knew it was going to come down to us being physical. The defense was just able to stop them at the line of scrimmage and the point of attack.”
On the play of NMSU quarterback Tyler Rogers: “He’s a great player. We were talking throughout the game and he told me he was trying to throw away from me because I hit too hard. He’s a ball player though; he’s good with his legs and he’s good with his arm. He made plays when they needed him too. New Mexico State made the plays when they needed too and they showed up on third down. Credit to those guys and I congratulate them.”

Quarterback Cole Garvin, who started the game but rotated series with Dallas Davis through the first half spoke for the offense after the game:
On the way the offense played in the second half: “We made it a game [in the second half] and we really tried to get the win, but we couldn’t get it done on the last offensive drive.”
On what the offense did differently going into the fourth quarter: “We just kept calling the same plays that were working and minimized mistakes. Coach Owens called a really good game against the defense were in and we just kept hitting the holes.”
On the job the running backs and wide receivers did: “Those guys finding the holes is what made my job easy, along with what the offensive line did. It was a team effort.”

South Alabama finished with 353 yards of total offense, 331 yards through the air and only 22 yards rushing. Jaguar quarterbacks combined to go 26-of-46 for two interceptions and one touchdown.

Garvin went 22-of-37 for 268 yards with an interception and the only passing touchdown, but was sacked four times. Davis went 4-of-9 for 63 yards with one interception.

Jamarius Way led the Jags with 88 yards on seven receptions. McCray was next with 74 yards on four receptions and the lone touchdown. David Gardner, Malik Stanley, and Tra Minter all had three catches for 48, 47, and 42 yards receiving respectively. Four other Jaguars also caught passes in the game.

Davis was the Jags leading rusher with 15 yards on five carries. Jalen Wayne, and Minter both had eight yards rushing. Bull Barge, Darrell Songy and Wade Forde each had a sack in the game.

Defensively the Jags allowed 491 total yards, 451 yards through the air and only 40 yards rushing. Rogers went 40-of-61 with two touchdowns and an interception.

Jaleel Scott had 134 yards on nine receptions. Rose also had nine receptions adding 95 yards receiving. The Aggies had eight other receivers catching passes in the game.

Rose rushed for 52 yards and Jason Huntley added 10 yards rushing as well. Rogers netted a 20 yard loss in sacks and such.

With the Jaguars season over, the focus now turns to the coaching search, which should accelerate with the season’s end. Athletics director Joel Erdmann is expected to begin interviewing candidates this week since more candidate’s seasons are starting to end as well.

It’s expected that defensive coordinator Kane Wommack will serve as USA’s interim head football coach until a replacement is hired.

Thank you coach Jones, your work has built the South Alabama program from scratch to what it is today. Photo Credit: JagNationUSA Facebook Page

Jags Travel To New Mexico State For Season Finale

November 29, 2017 · By · Filed Under Football, Sun Belt Conference · 1 Comment 

South Alabama is making their final appearance of the season on Saturday, December 2 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. While the Jags may be eliminated from bowl contention, they still have a lot to play for if you ask the players.

“A lot of people want to send coach Jones out with a win because of everything he’s done for us. We want to do right for him,” senior offensive guard Harrison Louden said. “We want to do right for the seniors as well and I can’t emphasize that enough. We want to send everybody out with a win.”

Head coach Joey Jones, the only head coach the Jaguar football team has had in it’s 9-season history, announced his resignation just over a week ago after the Jags were eliminated from bowl contention by Georgia Southern. But coach Jones does not want to make his final game about him, but rather keep the focus on the players. He decided that he would not attend the regular Monday press conference this week. Though, last week, he said he had not considered what emotions he may feel on Jaguars sidelines for the final time.

“It will probably mean a lot more later when I have a cane and a wheelchair and they’re honoring me on the field for starting the program back in 2009,” Jones said. “It’s going to be special one day. I’m just proud to be a small part of it.”

But Louden is only one of six projected starters, Dominic Esposito, Andrew Reinkemeyer, Zach Befort, Finesse Middleton, Darrell Songy and Jeremy Reaves, who will dress out and play for the Jaguars for the final time. But others on the team have points to make as well, “Against New Mexico State on Saturday, I want us to show everyone that we are a good team,” said defensive end Jimmie Gipson. “I know things haven’t panned out the way that we would’ve liked them to, but I want to go out with a bang; I want to go out with a ‘W’.”

New Mexico State has their own, powerful motivations to win on Saturday as well. With a win, they could finish the season 6-6 and keep their hopes alive for the program’s first bowl appearance since 1960. They will be aided by their redshirt senior quarterback Tyler Rogers who suffered a grade 2 sprain of the AC joint in the second half of their game against Louisiana-Lafayette on November 18.

Rogers has put up big numbers this season, ranking third nationally in completions per game (27.9), sixth in total offense per game (339.8), 14th in points responsible for (188), and 16th in total passing yards (3,374) despite missing the last five quarters of action.

The only notable player slated to miss the game for NMSU right now is wide receiver OJ Clark. He ranks second on the team with 44 catches for 492 yards and three touchdowns.

The Jags know about attrition though. The Jags lost career-rushing leader Xavier Johnson due to a violation of team rules. They also lost running backs Tywun Walters for rules violations. Then they’ve lost three back to injuries leaving Tra Minter and Carlos Robinson as the only two active running backs on the roster from the beginning of the season.

On the season, the Aggies score an average of 30.27 points per game and allow 31.73 points per game. Offensively the Aggies average 450.4 yards of total offense per game, 343.6 yards through the air and 106.7 yards on the ground per game. They are converting 45.9% of their 3rd down attempts and 50% of their 4th down attempts on the season. Also on the season they have allowed 35 sacks for a combined 209 yards and have fumbled the ball 12 times and lost it six times. Additionally they average 55.8 yards per game of penalties. The Aggies score 83% of the time they reach opponents red zone and 68% of the time they are touchdowns.

Defensively, the Aggies allow an average of 401.5 yards per game which breaks down to 223.8 yards through the air and 177.7 yards on the ground per game. Opponents are converting 31% of their 3rd down attempts and 61.1% of their 4th down attempts. They have sacked opponents 28 times for a loss of 181 yards, they have forced 13 fumbles and recovered eight of them on the season. Opponents are averaging 60.1 penalty yards per game against the Aggies. Opponents score 86% of the time they reach the Aggies red zone and 66% of the time they score touchdowns.

The Jags average 20.1 points per game on the season as opposed to 26.9 for their opponent. Offensively the Jags average 332.6 yards per game of total offense, which breaks down to 104.1 yards rushing and 228.5 yards passing per game. They converted 30% of their 3rd down attempts and 44% of their 4th down attempts. USA has fumbled the ball 12 times and only lost three of them and have been intercepted 12 times. Jags have 18 sacks on the season for 113 yards and average 59.4 penalty yards per game. The Jags offense scores 74% of the time in opponents red zone and 44% of the time are touchdowns.

Defensively the Jags allow and average of 411.1 yards per game of total offense, which breaks down to 162 yards rushing and 249.1 yards passing per game. Opponents are converting 41% of 3rd down attempts and 56% of 4th down attempts. The Jags have forced 20 fumbles on the season and recovered 12 of them while intercepting opponents seven times. Jags have 20 sacks on opposing quarterbacks for 153 yards. Opponents average 37.2 penalty yards per game. Opponents score 75% of the time they reach the red zone, 49% of the time they are touchdowns.

What the Jags must do to win:
Slow down the passing game. The Aggies, behind their redshirt senior quarterback throw for lots of yards each game. His favorite target is Jaleel Scott, who averages 82.6 yards per game receiving with eight touchdowns and 908 yards on the season. But he spreads the ball around to a number of receivers, so they cannot sleep on the others either.

Keep the Aggies out of the red zone. As seen by the numbers breakdown, if they get into the red zone, they score 74% of the time in they reach it.

The best defense is to control the ball on offense. The Jags were shredded by Georgia Southern and the offense was completely ineffective and the defense was gassed as a result.

Speaking of offense, the offense must move the ball and score. While this would seem to be a no-brainer, the Jags have struggled to move the ball consistently, convert 3rd downs and, in their last game, put points on the board.

Let’s send the seniors out on a winning note and lets give Coach Jones a great send off while we’re at it!

Thanksgiving Reflection And Looking To The Future

November 23, 2017 · By · Filed Under Football · 2 Comments 

Head coach Joey Jones lifts the ‘Battle for the Belt’ championship belt for the third time in the last four years. | Photo Credit: Brad Puckett

South Alabama was shocked and never recovered in Statesboro last weekend. It was kind of like one of those boxing matches where the favored competitor comes out against an underdog and the underdog lands that stunner head blow and the favorite is never able to recover.

The Jags got punched, and punched hard. They didn’t recover either.

Most fans thought that their bowl aspirations were going to be dashed the week before when they hosted Arkansas State, who had never lost to USA in their five previous games. They never thought an 0-9 Georgia Southern was going to be the one to dash their hopes. Which may have been a contributing factor in the loss. In college football, you can never underestimate your opponent.

The Jags went down 7-0 on the first possession, then a turnover set up the Eagles to go up 14-0. By the end of the first quarter the Jags were down 21-0 and it only got worse from there. The Eagles took out a season worth of frustration out on the Jaguars and sent their seniors out with a win in their final home game.

By the time the game was over, the Jags had been handed their first shutout, lost their chance at getting bowl eligible, and probably marked the end of head coach Joey Jones’ tenure as the only head football coach in South Alabama history.

“I’ve never been involved in a game like the one we had tonight in all my years of coaching,” head coach Joey Jones said. “The game plan got away from us. Georgia Southern executed well. They’ve been making mistakes all year and shooting themselves in the foot, and then tonight, they didn’t do that at all.”

“It all ends with me,” Jones said in his post-game radio interview. “I’ve got to get my team better ready to play than that. Obviously, we had some scheme problems. We didn’t coach well on defense, we didn’t coach well on offense. One of those games that got away from us. … Just not a good night at all.”

Just two days later that was affirmed by Coach Jones’ announcement of his resignation effective at the end of his contract and he will coach the Jags final game on December 2nd at New Mexico State.

Then the next day after the announcement of his resignation, coach Jones said, “It’s been a blast. I’m happy for South Alabama. It’ll be in my heart forever.”

“The meeting yesterday was something I was dreading in a lot of ways, just to let them know I wasn’t going to be here anymore,” Jones said. “And it turned into one of the best days of my life. I was hugging them and they were crying on my shoulder for a minute. It was touching and it means a lot to me. I’ll carry that forever. I had about 395 texts yesterday, a lot of them former players and friends. Made me realize I did it for the right reasons.”

Junior linebacker Bull Barge said that the news was tough to take but has given the team a renewed focus with intentions to send Jones out a winner.

“Yesterday was tough,” Barge said. “We love coach a lot. To hear that yesterday, you wish you could have done more. As a man, it’s life. This game is a business. We’ve been taught that from the beginning. Right now, our focus is to send coach out on top, have one of the best games we’ve ever played this last game.”

Senior guard Harrison Louden said that coach Jones not only taught his team about football, but also to “be men off the field. … He was all about character. I think that’s what I’m going to carry with me more than anything.”

After starting 7-0 and 10-0 in their first two seasons as an unclassified program they began their climb toward FBS with a 6-4 record as an FBS independent in 2011. Then they became an FBS transitional team in 2012 they went 2-11 as they drastically stepped up their competition and got their first FBS win over Florida International. Then they have been unable to get over the six win hump records of: 6-6, 6-7, 5-7, 6-7 over the previous four seasons and currently sitting at 4-7 this season with one game remaining.

They notched some historic wins over the last two seasons as well. Wins over Mississippi State, their first Power 5 win, and San Diego State, their first win over a ranked opponent, in 2016. Then they knocked off Sun Belt front-runners Troy and Arkansas State this season.

Jones, 55, has a record of 52-49 with one game remaining in his 9th season leading South.

During his tenure Jaguar fans have seen:

  • Gerald Everett became the Jags’ first-ever NFL draft selection in April and is in his first season with the Los Angeles Rams.
  • 3 individuals selected to participate at the NFL Scouting Combine
  • 4 members of the program voted CoSIDA Academic All-District (highlighted by Trey Clark being selected the Jaguars’ first-ever Academic All-American)
  • 5 players invited to play in the Reese’s Senior Bowl
  • 6 alumni currently active in the NFL and Canadian Football League
  • 24 former student-athletes received an opportunity to compete at the professional level
  • 43 times individuals earned all-Sun Belt recognition on the field over the last five years
  • 54 times an individual has been named to the Sun Belt Conference Commissioner’s List
  • 92 times student-athletes have made the league’s Academic Honor Roll

After being a standout player at Murphy High School, Jones went on to be a standout player at the University of Alabama and named to Alabama’s All-Decade Team for the 1980s. He would play professionally with the Birmingham Stallions and Atlanta Falcons. He then began his coaching career in 1989 as an assistant coach at Briarwood Christian School. Two years later he was hired as the head coach at Dora. In 1996 he was hired as head coach at Mountain Brook HS and led the team to the Class 6A state championship game in 1996. He would go 101-27 in 10 seasons there.

He was then hired as the head coach at Birmingham-Southern to restart their football program and led them to a 1-7 record in Division II. He was then hired after the one season at BSC to start the program at South Alabama from scratch. He won the Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year in 2013 after going 6-6 in their first season as a full Sun Belt member and improving on a 2-11 record the previous season.

Coach Jones and his wife, Elise, have been invaluable to South Alabama and cannot be thanked enough. When he was hired he started pulling together a staff on the steps of the Mitchell Center and living out of a hotel for a couple of months. They worked out wherever they could, including an improvised weight room in a former student health center and professional business building.

Athletic Director Joel Erdmann and the administration has hired a search firm to aid them in identifying the next head coach. with a number of potential candidates being thrown around. Whoever takes over the helm of the program, they will be inheriting a solid foundation that Jones and his staff has worked hard to build. A great fieldhouse and adjoining practice fields. Soon the covered practice facility with restart construction after the partially constructed superstructure collapsed after a sudden summer thunderstorm exposed the inadequate bracing the builders had not put into place.

There has been talk of an on-campus stadium since day one of the program. As much as fans complain about it, the fans and school are all lucky the City of Mobile has Ladd-Peebles Stadium that the Jags could use as their home stadium since the beginning and for the foreseeable future. Without it who knows if football would have gotten started or how the funds to start the program would have been used as they would have possibly spent funds to outfit a location to play.

  • As for those potential candidates, these are a few names that have been mentioned for the job are:
    John Grass, Jacksonville State head coach who has won four-consecutive conference championships and reached the FCS title game in 2015
  • Jeremy Pruitt, Alabama defensive coordinator, he’s never been a head coach and is currently making over $1 million per year
  • Tee Martin, Southern California offensive coordinator, he was a standout at Williamson HS before leading Tennessee to the 1998 BCS national championship
  • Kevin Sherrer, Georgia linebackers coach, was USA’s defensive coordinator in 2013, spent time on the Alabama staff but is reportedly a candidate to become defensive coordinator at Florida State
  • Kevin Steele, Auburn defensive coordinator, was a serious candidate for the position when coach Jones was hired in 2007 but has a terrible 9-36 overall record as head coach at Baylor and 1-31 Big 12 record from 1999-2002.
  • Chip Lindsey, Auburn offensive coordinator, he’s never been a head coach but has run successful offenses at Southern Miss and Auburn
  • Will Hall, Louisiana-Lafayette offensive coordinator, has a 56-20 record as head coach at West Alabama and West Georgia in Division II football and played at North Alabama, winning the Harlon Hill Trophy (Division II equivalent of the Heisman) as quarterback at North Alabama in 2003, when current USA AD Joel Erdmann was AD at UNA
  • Steve Campbell, Central Arkansas head coach, he is 33-14 in four seasons at UCA including 10-1 this season. He’s a Pensacola native, played center at Troy and was a graduate assistant for Pat Dye at Auburn. He also led Delta State to a Division II national championship in 1999 and won a junior-college national title at Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2007
  • Rhett Lashlee, UConn offensive coordinator, played for Gus Malzahn in high school before coaching with him as a graduate assistant then offensive coordinator at both Arkansas State and Auburn
  • Mario Cristobol, Oregon offensive coordinator, went 27-57 as head coach at FIU and took them to their only two bowl games in program history. He was then on the Alabama football staff from 2013-2016 as offensive line coach
  • Matt Luke, Ole Miss interim head coach, he was thrown to the wolves after Hugh Freeze resigned just before the season started amid scandals. He has been an assistant coach there since 2012 and served as co-offensive coordinator before being named interim head coach. He is Mississippi through and through, playing at Gulfport HS, then Ole Miss. He was a graduate assistant there in 1999, then came back from 2002-2005 then came back again in 2012
  • David Reeves, UAB defensive coordinator, he was a former Alabama high school coach who joined former Jag defensive coordinator in Jacksonville State in 2013, then joined him at UAB in 2014 as defensive line coach then became the defensive coordinator this season when the Blazers restarted their program
  • Kodi Burns, Auburn co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach, He’s only in his sixth season as an assistant coach. He was a former wide receiver at Auburn and has had coaching stints at Arkansas State, Arizona State, Middle Tennessee and Samford
  • Butch Jones, former Tennessee head coach, he started his head coaching career at Central Michigan after Brian Kelly left for Cincinnati, he then moved to Cincinatti after Kelly again left for Notre Dame. He then took over at Tennessee replacing Derek Dooley and finished with a 34-27 record there and a 14-24 SEC record. But his reputation of verbal abuse may not make him a desirable candidate. His first season at Tennessee was shakey after the Jags, down by eight points, mounted a last-minute drive to tie the game, but was intercepted in the end zone

Over the past 10 years, the South Alabama campus has changed in so many ways since they started football. New buildings, updated sports facilities, additional dorms, and increased enrollment. What the next 10 years holds only time will tell. For the first time, the Jags are searching for a new head coach. It will be interesting to see who makes it through the coaching carousel, ends up on the final list and eventually gets hired and how it impacts recruiting with early signing period coming up in mid-December and national signing day in February.

As we hear more, we’ll keep you informed.

Jags Look To Keep Momentum At Georgia Southern

November 17, 2017 · By · Filed Under Football, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 

South Alabama looks to take the momentum they earned from defeating then Sunbelt Conference leading Arkansas State on the road to Georgia Southern in order to keep their bowl hopes alive.

The Jags (4-6, 3-3 SBC) can’t overlook the Eagles (0-9, 0-5 SBC) because of their record. The Jags proved that last weekend against Arkansas State. Fueled by the defense and six turnovers, including the game-saving goal-line fumble forced by Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the week Bull Barge, the Jags may have won 23-18 but rushed for -3 yards in the game and totaled 340 yards of offense thanks to Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week Cole Garvin throwing for 343 yards.

While South Alabama has struggled with injuries and (recently) suspensions (also lets not forget the terrible officiating in the Idaho game either), Georgia Southern is on the tail end of what is arguably their worst season in recent school history. The six-time FCS national champion Eagles won nine games each season after making their jump to FBS in 2014. Then head coach Willie Fritz accepted the head coaching position at Tulane and the Eagles hired Tyson Summers. Summers went 5-7 in his first season in 2016, then falling to FCS New Hampshire 22-12 in the second week of the season and was fired after falling to UMass 55-20 in week 8.

The Eagles average 16.3 points per game and allow an average of 37.1 points per game. Their power rushing game is averaging 191.8 yards per game combined with 103.4 yards per game passing has them averaging 295.2 yards per game so far in the 2017 season.

GSU is only converting 30.3% of their 3rd down attempts on the season. But they do convert 69.6% of their red zone trips into points, but only 39.1% of them are for touchdowns. Additionally they have fumbled 31 times and lost the ball 12 times and quarterbacks have thrown six interceptions on the season.

Defensively the eagles are allowing 200.1 yards rushing, 242.8 yards passing per game for an average of 443.9 yards per game of total offense. Opponents are converting 43.4% of 3rd down attempts. However opponents are converting 82.4% of their red zone trips into points, and 70.6% of the time they convert those red zone trips into touchdowns.

Additionally, the Eagle defense have forced only 9 fumbles and recovered only 5 of them, but they have managed to intercept eight opponent’s passes.

The Jags are scoring 22.1 points per game as opposed to 24.4 points per game for their opponents. They average 346.4 yards of total offense per game, which breaks down to 111.6 yards rushing and 234.8 yards passing per game.

Though the Jags are only converting 31% of their 3rd down attempts, that is actually up from the average the Offense had prior to offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent’s resignation. Additionally the Jags are converting 76% of their red zone trips into points, and 45% of the time they are scoring touchdowns. They have only fumbled 10 times and lost the ball twice on the season, but they do have 10 interceptions.

Defensively the Jaguars are allowing 393.3 yards per game of total offense, which breaks down to 142.6 yards per game rushing and 251.3 yards per game passing. Opponents are converting 71% of their red zone trips into points, and 42% of their red zone trips are touchdowns. The Jags have forced 19 fumbles on the season and recovered 12 of them, while also collecting seven interceptions from opposing quarterbacks, with four of them coming last week from Arkansas State’s Justice Hansen.

Georgia Southern is hurting, that much is obvious. The players and coaches want to avoid going down as the first team in school history to start the season 0-10. They also would like to keep their unbeaten streak intact against the Jaguars.

You might say the Jaguars are limping along themselves. After losing a few players in the secondary, a position they were already thin at entering the season, the Jaguar secondary has continued to play strong.

Lately the Jaguars have been hurting at the running back position. With the loss of five players in recent weeks, the Jags have turned to freshman wide receiver Jalen Wayne to add depth in the backfield. Wayne made a similar move to running back in high school at Spanish Fort. Which may give an added pass-catching dimension to the backfield for the Jags.

Another nagging problem has been dropped passes by receivers.

The Jags just need to go out and handle business without concern about how good or how bad the opponent is playing. Just like last week, each player has to play their assignment and fight to win each and every play. Forget the previous play and just fight to win the play in front of you.

Key to victory:

The Jags have to come out with energy from the opening kickoff. Last week the defense started hot by forcing three turnovers in the opening quarter. The offense started slow but behind the energy on defense, the offense finally got in gear and started moving the ball and putting up points.

The offense has to move the ball and score points. This is a point to stress each and every week, even though it’s pretty obvious. This unit has struggled pretty much all season long. It hasn’t helped that both Cole Garvin and Dallas Davis have been nicked up all season long and now the running back position was down to only two active players last week.

The Jags defense needs to keep the energy up. The offense feeds off of the defense and big plays help. Georgia Southern has a tendency to fumble the ball and the defense are ball hawks with those 19 forced fumbles and 12 fumble recoveries, the Jags should have some opportunities to force turnovers.

Again, it’s a do-or-die week for the Jags. If they lose, their bowl aspirations evaporate. But the Jags respond well with their backs against the wall. The Eagles will play more inspired as it will be Senior Day in Statesboro. Just like the Jags last week, the seniors will not want to lose the final home game of their career.

South Alabama and Georgia Southern are scheduled to kick off at 2pm in Statesboro, Georgia with USA being a 5-point favorite. The game can be seen on ESPN3. Radio coverage can be heard on the Jags flagship station 96.1FM and 99.5FM The Jags in the Mobile area with pregame coverage starting at noon.

Jags Force Six Turnovers To Defeat Arkansas State 24-19

November 12, 2017 · By · Filed Under Football, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 

Defensive coordinator Kane Wommack coaches the defense in the fourth quarter of the Jaguars 24-19 win over Arkansas State.

South Alabama (4-6, 3-3 SBC) forced six turnovers as they upset Sun Belt Conference leader Arkansas State (5-3, 4-1 SBC) in Mobile 24-19. This win marks the first one by the Jags in this series.

After forcing three turnovers in the first quarter and taking a 10-0 lead, they still needed some late-game heroics to preserve the win. The Jags were leading 24-19 but the Red Wolves were driving. Facing 3rd and goal at the 4 yard line, quarterback Justice Hansen kept the ball and looked to be running for a touchdown, but Bull Barge met him at the 1, forcing the ball out, which Malcolm Buggs recovered in the end zone for a touchback.

But the heroics wasn’t over just yet.

After losing 11 yards on 3rd and 4 as the Arkansas State defense bull rushed the backfield, the Jags punted the ball back to the ASU with 2:06 left in the game. But on the fourth play of the drive, Hansen was looking a receiver running an inside slant, but senior Jeremy Reaves picked it off sealing the victory.

Arkansas State cut the Jaguar lead to 10-6 with a pair of field goals in the second quarter. Attempting to get some points before halftime, ASU’s Hansen threw another interception when Darrell Songy picked it off at the ASU 47. The Jags drove down to the 1 yard line with :06 left in the first half, but Jamarius Way and an ASU defender got into a tussle and reportedly threw a punch and was ejected. After clocking the ball, the Jags sent on Gavin Patterson for a short field goal, but the snap was too high and the Jags took their 10-6 lead into halftime.

Late in the third quarter, Cole Garvin found Sam Harris for a 39 yard touchdown after he broke a couple tackles and found a seam in the defense to allow him to get to the end zone.

Arkansas State answered back quickly with 5 play drive covering 79 yards in 1:13. They attempted a 2-point conversion but failed to connect leaving the Jags ahead 17-12.

The Jags would answer back with with a 16-yard touchdown from Garvin to Kawaan Baker to cap off a 9 play, 75 yard drive, to cut the lead down to 24-19 with just 2:55 left in the game.

South Alabama had problems running the ball against the Arkansas State defensive line. After finally getting positive rushing late in the game, the Jags finished with -3 after kneeling on the ball in the victory formation.

The Jags gained 340 yards total, 343 of them through the air. Arkansas State ran for 66 yards, threw for 299 more for a total of 365 yards.

Justice Hansen went 27-of-44 for 285 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted four times and was sacked four times as well. Cole Garvin was 25-of-45 for a career high 343 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and sacked three times.

Garvin’s top target with Malik Stanley who caught six passes for 60 yards. Jordan McCray caught four for 72 yards, Jamarius Way caught three for 66 yards before being disqualified at the end of the first half. Six other Jaguars caught passes too.

Justice’s top receiver was Chris Murray who caught 7 passes for 44 yards and a touchdown. Black Mack caught 5 for a game-high 94 yards receiving. Eight other Red Wolves caught passes.

Carlos Robinson was the Jags leading rusher with 21 yards on 9 carries. Tra Minter added 9 on 14 carries.

Hansen was the Red Wolves leading rusher with 37 yards on 18 attempts. Warran Wand and Johnston White added 21 and 20 yards respectively.

Bull Barge led the way with 13 total stops, eight of the solo with a forced fumble and a tackle for loss. Jeremy Reaves had 11 stops, nine of them solo along with the game-sealing interception. Darrell Songy had 10 stops and an interception as well. Sean Grayer and Tobias Moss bot the other two interceptions.

“I challenged the kids today and told them to try and whip [Arkansas State’s] tail every play, and if they did that we were going to have a chance, ” head coach Joey Jones said after the game. “That’s all I asked them to do today. I just wanted them to play their tails off every play; the offensive line, the defensive line and every player on the field, and I think they did that. They gave unbelievable effort. We made a few mistakes, but they gave unbelievable effort and played their tails off. I’m just so proud of the way they played tonight. They played with so much confidence. We beat a really good football team, Arkansas State’s the cream of the crop in our league. They’ve got great coaches and great athletes, they’ve won five out of the last six conference championships, and we were finally able to beat them. To get a win against this team speaks volumes for our players and their dedication to this program.”

“What a play. Great players make great plays in big times,” Jones continued when talking about Bull Barge’s forced fumble. Bull Barge is probably the most improved player on our football team. He’s become a leader and a captain on our team in my mind, and he’s a guy we can count on. If you have a bunch of guys like him on your team, you’re going to be able to make plays like that one. I’m so proud of him.”

When asked about finishing the game, Jones had the following to say. “We just kept our players up on the sideline. Whenever they went down and scored quickly, the momentum could have changed and they could have dropped their heads, but everybody on offense and defense kept coming over and encouraging each other. I felt like our attitude just completely changed and it was fun to see that tonight.”

Bull Barge talked about the big play he had in the closing minutes of the game. “It was me and Jeremy. Jeremy had the back man-to-man, and I was the extra player, so I had the quarterback. When Jeremy saw the quarterback take off, he sealed the outside, I saw him cut up, and I just dove at him trying to kill him, basically. He tried to jump over me, and I guess my head hit the ball perfectly. And when I hit the ground, I thought he scored, and I turned around and saw the ball rolling, and I just wanted to lay down and cry. That’s the biggest play of my life, ever.”

“Before the game, we sat down as a defense and really got on the same page,” Barge explained the Jags defensive effort in the game. “We told all the seniors how much we love them and how much we really want them to go out on top of a bowl game, and we knew we had to win this game to get where we wanted to be. We just came out and executed the way we wanted, the way we talked about before the game. It got a little shaky in the end, but we talked on the sideline and we knew how we were going to respond. Jeremy sealed the game as always. I have looked up to Jeremy so much ever since I got here. I love him, and I just want to send him out on top.”

“That was the perfect way I wanted to go out,” Senior Jeremy Reaves explained the game-sealing turnover late in the game. “I’m so proud of my teammates, and it’s a great feeling to know that I’ve got 10 guys behind me who are going to bust their behinds just like I am. I’m proud of my offense, I’m proud of Bull, I’m proud of everything. We knew we had to make plays. This is a great team, and we made plays when we needed to.”

“It’s very emotional,” said Reaves on winning his final home game as a Jaguar. “It’s hard because this is my last one at home with these guys, and we got it. It’s been so long together. I’ve built so many relationships. It’s just a good feeling to go out the right way. My family got to see my go out at home the right way. I can’t put it into words. It’s a blessing, honestly.”

“We’ll celebrate this win tonight, and it’s gone after that like it never happened,” Reaves stated about the team going forward. “It’s another week. We’ve got to play again on Saturday. We’ll celebrate this one tonight as a team. We did something that no other team here has done, and we put this one behind us and go forward from there.”

The Jags went 1-0 this week. Starting Sunday, the Jags will be back to 0-0 again and will face Georgia Southern at 2pm in Statesboro, Georgia on Saturday, November 18 as they continue their march to getting bowl-eligible.

Jags Host Sun Belt Leading Red Wolves On Senior Day

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

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!

Jags Fall At Home To Cajuns 19-14

November 5, 2017 · By · Filed Under Football, Sun Belt Conference · 2 Comments 

South Alabama’s offense struggled and was unable to overcome Louisiana-Lafayette’s early lead, falling to 3-6 overall and 2-3 in Sun Belt play.

The Jaguars defense struggled to contain freshman quarterback Levi Lewis, who started his first game in his career after Cajun head coach Mark Hudspeth pulled his redshirt this week due to two quarterbacks nursing injuries.

Lewis went 8-of-15 passing for 110 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 129 yards. Doing most of his damage and scoring all their points in the first half as the Jaguar defense tried to adjust to his unexpected start. But once they made their halftime adjustments, the Jags defense held the Cajuns to a mere 109 total yards in the second half, 81 yards rushing and 28 yards passing.

Unfortunately the Jaguar offense was only a little more productive in the second half than the Cajuns, but the 12 points deficit and the inability to move the ball and score was enough to doom USA.

The offense wasn’t helped by head coach Joey Jones’ announcement on Saturday that senior running back Xavier Johnson had been suspended for the remainder of the season for a violation of team rules. Additionally, Deonta Moore was unavailable for the game either, so the rushing duties were left to Tra Minter, Carlos Robinson and Denzel Foster.

Jag running backs ran for 95 yards on 21 carries. But when you factor in quarterback scrambles and sacks, the Jags only managed 87 yards on 29 carries after losing 42 yards on sacks.

Dallas Davis started the game but appeared to take a couple hard hits and was ineffective in the game. Coaches decided to replace him with Cole Garvin, who went 22-for-35 for 274 yards. But he also had threw two critical interceptions in Cajun territory. The second of which came at the Louisiana-Lafayette 4 yard line early in the fourth quarter. The Jags were set up by an 81-yard pass from Garvin to Jamarius Way, but the interception happened when a Garvin pass was tipped by one of his receivers and was picked off on the bounce.

Again the Jags had some late heroics with a drive taking just under two-and-a-half minutes to draw within five points. However their attempt at an onsides kick did not work this time and they ran out of time and opportunities.

After getting a field goal in the first quarter, the Cajuns scored their first touchdown on a 54 yard pass from Lewis to Jacquet when the defender went to come up for run support thinking Lewis was scrambling and someone had coverage on his guy, but Lewis threw it up and connected with him for the touchdown. The Cajuns missed the extra point to make it 9-0.

On the Cajuns next possession, they drove down to the Jaguar 13 yard line when Lewis, again rolling out to the right side of the field tossed the ball to Chase Rogers when the defender thought he had help over the top and went to go up for run support. Unfortunately he didn’t and that netted them their second touchdown for a 16-0 lead.

The Jags would allow a field goal on the next Cajun possession for a 19-0 lead with 3:10 left before halftime.

Garvin would lead a drive with four consecutive completions to start the drive. He would cap off the drive with a 12 yard touchdown to Malik Stanley on an inside slant with :38 left before halftime.

“We found out today that he was going to play and had no idea about that in our preparation,” Jones said in his post-game press conference. “They changed up their offense a little bit with a little bit more of a quarterback running game. I thought our defense adjusted well once we got to see what they were doing with him in the first half.

“We have to be able to make some of those plays,” Jones continued talking about the bad breaks in the game. “We had a fumble on the ground in the fourth quarter that we had our hands on that would have given us the ball around midfield. I think right now the biggest concentration for us though is to be able to come out of the gates better. We can’t play catch up. The last two games we got behind early and had to play catch up and if you miss a couple of plays here and there you’re going to lose ball games. If you’re up on people, you can afford to make some of those mistakes, but you can’t be behind and make those mistakes.”

“It’s tough,” Jones said on the disappointment of the loss. “We knew it was going to be a big game for us and a big game for them. We didn’t come out of the gate very well only scoring seven points until a minute left in the game on offense; we’ve got to do better than that. I thought we had a good game plan and the kids played hard, but we didn’t make a lot of plays and had a lot of missed opportunities early missing some receivers that were wide open.”

“We just have to work on not breaking our own momentum,” Garvin said after the game. “We had momentum a lot that game, and the offense would mess it up for ourselves and that hurt us. Getting in the red zone and not scoring – we have to stop doing that.”

“He’s more versatile and is better with his feet,” said senior defensive back Jeremy Reaves. “We were prepared for deep balls, but with him being so small he couldn’t see over the line of scrimmage so everything was outside. He gave us a different look; he was a running back, basically, at quarterback.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow when you go out there and fight. There were too many plays left on the field. We just have to get in the film room and in practice, and we have to take that stuff seriously. We have to take mistakes seriously in practice, because it translates to Saturday. I put that on the seniors; we’re the leaders and we’re responsible for that. We have to get that corrected.

“One [of the touchdown passes] was on me; I was trying to do someone else’s job and essentially lost my man. It’s the same thing that hurt me last week too. I can’t make those mistakes; my teammates look to me to make the play and not blow it up. The other was just guys being aggressive and looking to make plays, and we left a guy open.”

“Early on, there were just mental busts that happened and got them [ULL] ahead,” said Darrell Songy. “Just small, basic plays we need to take care of to help take away their momentum at the beginning of the game. As we got into the game, we felt more into position and adjusted to the quarterback. But it was just too little too late.”

South Alabama has one shot to get bowl eligible now. They have three must-win games, starting with the red hot Arkansas State Redwolves next Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

The Jags will most likely be heavy underdogs to ASU, who are 5-0 all-time against the Jags and have won the conference title three of the last four seasons.

“We’ll line up and get ready to play, I promise you,” Jones said. “Arkansas State has got a really good football team, but we still need to get ready to play. … It’s certainly backed up against the wall for us right now.”

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