Jaguars Hosts Ragin’ Cajuns Today At 3pm

November 4, 2017 · By · Filed Under Football, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 

The Jaguar football team looks to shake off last week’s loss in Atlanta when they host Louisiana-Lafayette at Ladd-Peebles Stadium today. The Jags have had nine days to regroup and correct things since Georgia State.

Lafayette (3-4, 2-2 SBC) comes into the game off of a 47-3 drumming by Arkansas State on the road but have had 16 days to rest and regroup themselves. After putting up at least 42 points in three of their first four games, the Cajuns haven’t been able to score over 24 points per game since.

The Cajun defense depends on the teams momentum. If the Cajun offense is moving the ball efficiently, the defense gets some rest and play well.

South Alabama’s offense was unable to get much of anything going against Georgia State after an interception on the second play from scrimmage was returned inside the Jag 10 yard line and led to an early touchdown lead by the Panthers. The Georgia State defense seized on that early momentum in a rivalry game and stymied the Jags all night long.

USA only managed 41 yards rushing against the panthers on 23 carries and Xavier Johnson held to -3 yards on seven carries. It didn’t help that Johnson kept losing footing on the new turf in Atlanta every time he tried to cut. The offense threw for 297 yards, but Davis threw two interceptions in the game while completing 56% of his passes. He didn’t get much help from his receivers as they dropped several catchable passes, including the first interception.

The Cajun offense averages 160 yards per game rushing and 229 yards passing per game. Freshman Trey Ragas is tied for third nationally in rushing touchdowns for freshman with 7 and seventh nationally in total rushing yards with 542. Additionally the Cajun offense has scored on every trip inside the red zone (28-for-28, 25 TDs, 3 FGs).

The Jags need three wins in the next four games to get bowl eligible and cannot afford to get their sixth loss before next week’s game against Arkansas State, where the Red Wolves will probably be heavily favored.

Look for the Jaguar offense to try to establish some momentum early and establish the run. Since Richard Owens has taken over as offensive coordinator, the Jaguar offense have done a better job at limiting negative plays and making 3rd down yardages more manageable.

Punter Corliss Waitman is a finalist for the Ray Guy Award and has helped the Jaguar special teams to be one of the most efficient in the nation.

What do the Jaguars need to do to win:

The same keys from last week apply this week. The Jags cannot come out of the locker room flat. While the series may not have the same level of spirited rivalry as Georgia State or Troy, they cannot let the Cajuns seize the momentum early and get their offense and defense going.

Head coach Joey Jones has preached every day since the Panther loss that they need establish the run. The Jaguar offense cannot be one-dimensional. But the receivers also need to help out their quarterback by looking the ball all the way in and securing the catch before looking to make their move.

The Jaguars defensively had problems both covering Penny Hart and stopping the Panthers running game. The Jaguars secondary depth is thin and they have some nicks and bruises, just like any football player does at this time of year. But the young players have shown they have talent and are getting the experience they need to play at a high level. If the offense can help them get some rest on the sidelines, they will continue to play at a high level as a unit and play their type of Swarm Defense.

South Alabama (3-5, 2-2 SBC) and Lousiana-Lafayette (3-4, 2-2 SBC) will kick off at Ladd-Peebles Stadium at 3pm. You can watch online via ESPN3 or you can hear the play-by-play on 96.1 FM and 99.5 FM The Jag in the Mobile area.

Panthers Snap Jags Two-Game Win Streak 21-13 In Atlanta

October 27, 2017 · By · Filed Under Football, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 

South Alabama (3-5, 2-2 SBC) lost momentum early to Georgia State (4-3, 3-1 SBC) and was unable to get back on solid footing until under three minutes to go as the Jags two-game winning streak came to an end by a score of 21-13 in Atlanta.

On the Jags first possession and the second play of the drive, Dallas Davis’ pass hit Messiah Francis in the hands, but popped up and was intercepted at the 36 yard line and returned to the Jaguar 3 yard line. The Panthers seized momentum at that point and never intended to relinquish it as they played very spirited defense and solid offense.

On the Jaguars second possession, they drove from their own 23 yard line to the Panther 25 before they stalled and settled for a 42 yard field goal attempt by Gavin Patterson. However, Patterson pulled it wide left and the Jags came up empty.

Early in the second quarter the Jags finally got on the board after 38 yard punt and four yard return put them at the Panther 42 yard line. But again, the Jags drive would stall out at the 11 yard line but this time Patterson slid it inside the right upright.

After trading possessions, Corliss Waitman’s punt was downed at the Panther 8 yard line, but an unsportsmanlike penalty backed them up to the 4 yard line with 5:14 left in the opening half. Then they proceeded to drive it 96 yards in 3:31 to take a 14-3 lead over the Jaguars. Which would be the score at halftime.

After both teams opened the second half with three-and-outs, the Panthers started a drive that would span 14 plays, 51 yards and take 7:39 off the clock. Around midway through the drive the Jags thought they had gotten the stop that they needed on 3rd and 9, but two flags would be thrown. One for roughing the passer when Jimmie Gipson low trying to get to Conner Manning and pushed into his legs just as he was throwing the ball. The other was when Nigel Lawrence lowered his shoulder and kocked the ball loose for an incomplete pass. The targeting would be overturned but the roughing the passer moved them to the Jaguar 40 yard line with a first down. Two holding penalties on the Panthers after that and they were forced to eventually attempt a 50 yard field goal, which they missed well right of the upright.

The Jaguar offense would capitalize on the good field position with a 7 play, 32 yard drive to add a 46 yard field goal and cutting the lead to 14-6 with just over a minute to play in the third quarter.

A pass to Penny Hart would spark the Panthers again on the ensuing drive when he took a short pass and turned it into a 45 yard gain to the Jaguar 20 yard line. They would run tempo to take advantage of the Jags to follow up with a 10 yard run. A couple plays later, when a Jag defenisve lineman jumped offsides, Manner tossed a back-shoulder throw towards Hart in the corner of the end zone to score their final touchdown of the game and to take a 21-6 lead with 12:55 left in the game.

On the next possession, the Jags were starting to move the ball and had converted their first 3rd down of the series when Davis threw a pass to the right sideline where Cedric Stone stepped in front of the receiver and intercepted the pass. He finally stepped out of bounds at the Jaguar 26 yard line. But the Jaguar defense held strong and got the ball back on downs in four plays.

The offense would drive from their own 34 yard line to the Panther 7 but three consecutive incomplete passes turned the ball over on downs.

The Jags would get the ball back with 2:45 left in the game. After taking a 5 yard sack on first down, Davis found Jamarius Way behind the defense down the left sideline for a 75 yard touchdown and giving them the shot in the arm they needed, albeit a bit late.

Corliss Waitman teed up and kicked a perfect onsides kick that Blake Worthy was able to recover on a perfect bounce at the Panther 49 yard line with 2:11 left in the game.

Deonta Moore ran on first down for 7 yards but three consecutive incomplete passes turned the ball over on downs. On the final play, Davis tried to get it to Jamarius Way but he was double covered, but it looked like he had another receiver a little more open about five yards deeper on a crossing route but he was unable to see him.

The Jags finished the game with 338 yards of total offense, 297 passing and merely 41 rushing. The Panthers finished with 309 total yards, 195 passing and 114 rushing. The Jags converted 5-of-16 on third down and held a 31:30 to 28:30 time of possession advantage.

Dallas Davis was the teams leading rusher with 11 yards on 7 attempts. Foster also had 11 yards on only one carry. Xavier Johnson, who had problems all night long slipping on the newly installed turf at Georgia State Stadium, the former Turner Field, finished with -3 yards on seven carries.

Jamarius Way finished with 118 yards on 6 catches with the lone touchdown. Sam Harris caught 7 passes for 73 yards. McCray caught three for 35 yards. Seven other Jaguars also caught passes in the game.

Dallas Davis finished 27-of-48 for 297 yards, a touchdown but also two interceptions and one sack.

Conner Manning finished 17-of-31 for 195 yards and two touchdowns. Penny Hart led the Panthers with six catches for 98 yards and a touchdown. Glenn Smith had two catches for 36 yards and the other touchdown. The other five receivers who caught passes had 19 or fewer yards.

Glenn Smith rushed 17 times for 73 yards, Kyler Neal had 10 carries for 32 yards and Manning had three carries for 8 yards.

Coliss Waitman continued his great season with five punts averaging 46.4 yards per punt, a long of 51 with four of his punts being downed inside the 20 yard line.

Head coach Joey Jones summed it up like this, “It was a case of Georgia State grabbing the momentum early on with the first interception and turning that into a touchdown. We never got the momentum back after that. We never really did anything to flip it back our way, except late in the game when we got the long touchdown pass and recovered the onside kick. We had a chance to drive the ball down and score, but didn’t get that done. It just felt like we were climbing out of a hole the whole game. We would drive the ball a little bit on offense, but then stall out. We have to learn from this game, because over the last two weeks, we’ve been able to take the momentum away from teams and held it, but we didn’t do anything to turn the momentum in our favor tonight.”

While not billed as such, the Jags and Panthers game has turned into a bit of a rivalry as they both started football within a couple years of each other and have played very spirited games against each other. When you give momentum to a rival early in the game like that, it’s very hard to get it back. See the Troy game for a good example.

Dallas Davis took the blame offensively, “Offensively, we just didn’t execute. The offensive line did a good job and gave me all the time in the world to throw but we just didn’t execute out on the perimeter, and we have to be able to do that to win games. I feel like we came out flat today, and that’s on me; I have to get the offense going, so I take the blame for it.”

Jeremy Reaves summed it up well too, “We have to bury this game and put it behind us. Sunday starts a new week for us when we get back on the practice field. You just have to learn that you can’t come out flat. Every team you play is going to give you their best every week; you can’t expect to just show up and beat someone. We have some good ball clubs in the Sun Belt. You have to bring your energy and your ‘A’ game every week or you’re going to get beat.”

The Jaguars will start a two-game home-stand on Saturday, November 4 when they host Louisiana-Lafayette. The game is scheduled to kick off at 3pm. The Jags will need to win three of the next four games (Louisiana-Lafayette, Arkansas State, Georgia Southern and New Mexico State) to get bowl eligible.

Strong home support over the next two home games will be a must. Especially against Arkansas State, who is probably one of the top teams in the conference. If the Jags can win out, including a win over ASU, they will be in a very good position win out.

Jags Travel To Face Georgia State On Thursday In Nationally Televised Game

October 25, 2017 · By · Filed Under Football, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 

South Alabama (3-4, 2-1 SBC) and Georgia State (3-3, 2-1 SBC) both have short preparation times to get ready for their Thursday night game in Atlanta.

The Jags come into the game with back-to-back wins and look to even their overall record for the season while Georgia State looks go back over .500 on the season after their three-game win streak was broken at home by Troy on Saturday by a score of 34-10.

USA had their best offensive performance of the season with 549 yards of total offense and an average of 8.1 yards per play. Xavier Johnson broke the career rushing record as he rushed for 99 yards to help the team rush for 242 yards.

Possibly more importantly, the Jags converted 7-of-12 3rd down attempts.

It wasn’t only the offense who had a big game. Jeremy Reaves tied for top spot on the career interception list, returned a fumble 92 yards to set up the offense for a touchdown, and had eight tackles in the game to earn Sun Belt Conference Co-Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Georgia State has wins over Louisiana-Monroe (3-4), Coastal Carolina (1-6), and Charlotte (1-7) this season. Their losses were to Tennessee State (3-4 FCS), Penn State and Troy.

This is head coach Shawn Elliot’s first year at the helm, previously he was co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at South Carolina where he had served for the last seven seasons under both coach Will Muschamp and Steve Spurrier. He served as interim head coach after Spurrier retired midway through the 2015 season. Previous to South Carolina, Elliot served 13 seasons as an assistant coach at Appalachian State, including during their three-consecutive NCAA title run 2005-07 and during the Mountaineers’ historic upset at Michigan in 2007.

The Panthers offensive coordinator is Travis Trickett. He served as offensive coordinator at Florida Atlantic and Samford before joining Elliot’s staff. FAU set school records for rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in 2016.

GSU’s defensive coordinator is Nate Fugua, who came to the Panthers from FCS Wofford where he had served 12 season, the last three as defensive coordinator. Under his oversight, the defense helped the team to a 10-4 record and finished 5th in the natino in totoal defense, 6th in scoring defense, and 12th in rushing defense.

One of the notable staff members is cornerbacks coach Sam Shade. Shade, who some may remember from his time at the University of Alabama and the 1992 National Championship team, played eight years in the NFL for the Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins. Prior to joining GSU, Shade coached the last eight years at Samford by coaching cornerbacks and the last seasons also as the passing game coordinator. Samford’s defense led the nation in passing yards allowed (139.1 yards per game), and ranked seventh in pass efficiency defense in 2014. In 2015, Samford led their conference with 16 interceptions (17th in FCS). They finished either first or second in their conference in pass efficiency defense each of the last four seasons.

Georgia State is committed to running the ball. Against Troy, the Panthers ran the ball 33 times for 52 yards. In each of the previous four games the Panther ran the ball at least 40 times. They did not have much production against Charlotte (124) and Coastal Carolina (91), but ran for 224 yards against the ULM in Louisiana.

The Panthers rely on their passing game to get it done though. Against Troy they managed 335 yards through the air in the loss. In their three wins, the Panthers threw for 250 yards or more, including 446 against ULM as they rolled up 670 yards of total offense.

The Panthers offense leans on senior quarterback Conner Manning who is averaging 252.7 yards per game with seven touchdowns on the season with a 66.5% completion percentage. One of his favorite targets is Sophomore Penny Hart, who leads the Sun Belt with an average of 7.8 receptions per game (6th in FBS) and 97.8 yards per game (15th in FBS).

The Jaguar defense allowed an uncharacteristic 307 yards rushing to the Warhawks. The Panthers are going to run the ball, as shown by their rushing attempts in previous games. GSU may not run for lots of yards, but they attempt it enough that you have to play it honest which lets them throw the ball. Which, they are pretty good at averaging 269.7 yards per game. But they also have six interceptions and have had eight fumbles, losing five of them. They also convert 57% of their 3rd down attempts. They also convert 61% of their red-zone trips into points, 44% of them into touchdowns.

What do the Jags need to do to win:

The Jags defense will have to play solid, both against the run and the pass to win. Hopefully last Saturday’s run defense is just an anomaly based on the ULM match-up. But even so, the defense held the Warhawks to 23 points, which was a little over half what they averaged coming into the game. The secondary, led by Reaves, are starting to gel more and play more mature as well.

Offensively, the Jags are playing better. Head coach Joey Jones and offensive coordinator Richard Owens have them taking what the defense will give them, playing patiently and reducing negative plays which puts you in position to convert 3rd downs easier and move the ball. If they continue building on that again this week, then they will have a good chance to notch their third win in a row.

Don’t come out flat against Georgia State. The Panthers and Jaguars have a fairly spirited rivalry that has grown since both started football within a few years of each other. Last year the Jags eeked out a 13-10 win for homecoming, but the Panthers stunned the Jags in Atlanta in 2015 by a score of 24-10. They would love nothing more than to rain on the Jaguar parade again, especially to break a two-game win streak and make up for their loss to Troy last week. But they also need to keep their wits about them. Don’t let the Panthers bait them into needless penalties. Just go out and play their assignment, play to win each and every play, and play fundamentally sound, something they’ve been able to do lately.

South Alabama and Georgia State will kick off in Atlanta at the new Georgia State Stadium on the grounds of the former home of the Atlanta Braves, Turner Field. For the Tennessee State game, the Panthers played in front of an announced sell-out crowd of 24,333, however that does not look like actual capacity of the stadium but more of a self-limited number.

The game is scheduled for a 6:30PM Central kickoff and will be aired on ESPNU nationally. Radio in the Mobile area will start their coverage at 4:30pm on 99.5FM The Jag and 95.1 FM in the Mobile area.

South Alabama Win Homecoming Match Up Against Louisiana-Monroe

October 21, 2017 · By · Filed Under Football, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 

Offensive line and tight ends coach Chase Smith talks with the Jaguar offensive line with the rest of the offense seated along with them during the Jags 33-23 win over Louisiana-Monroe.

South Alabama (3-4, 2-1 SBC) defeats Louisiana-Monroe (3-4, 3-2 SBC) 33-23 in a game that saw a number career highs being broken, a career record being tied, and another career record being broken.

It all began with Xavier Johnson breaking the career rushing record on his second carry of the game, when he broke a 33 yard run on the opening drive of the game. Johnson would end the game with 99 yards on 11 carries.

Sam Harris had career high with eight catches and 141 yards. Dallas Davis threw for a career-high 3 touchdowns in the game and for 317 yards, the most by a Jaguar quarterback this season.

Jeremy Reaves moved into a tie for interceptions in a career with Tyrell Pearson, with his sixth.

The South Alabama offense, led by Dallas Davis, rolled up 549 total yards, 317 through the air and 232 on the ground. Most of the rushing yardage came in the second half as the Warhawk defense held the Jags to 97 yards in the first half.

The Jag defense had problems stopping the Warhawks in the first half. They allowed 312 total yards in the first half, including 239 on the ground. But defensive coordinator Kane Wommack made some great halftime adjustments and held Louisiana-Monroe to only 68 yards rushing and 106 yards passing in the second half.

The Jags only trailed once in the game after Marcus Green took a reverse 74 yards to the Jaguar 1 yard line, followed by a touchdown run by Ben Luckett put ULM ahead 20-17 at the 6:00 mark of the second quarter.

The Jags were driving but Davis threw into triple coverage, the ball was tipped and then intercepted. The Jaguar defense forced a three-and-out to give the ball back to the offense with 1:33 left in the half.

Davis drove the Jags 80 yards to regain the lead behind his arm and the Jaguar receiving corps. The drive culminated with a beautiful catch in the end zone by Sam Harris on 3rd and goal at the 5 yard line.

“Our kids came out and played well tonight, we really grew up as a football team,” said head coach Joey Jones in his post game press conference. “Our offense was able to put up over 500 yards and was 7-of-12 on third downs, so there were a lot of improvements. Our kids played their guts out, I’m excited about the way they played. I’ve known we had a good football team this whole time. We’re looking forward to our next ball game.

“We played a tough schedule early and I knew we had a good football team. We’ve won the last two and our guys want to win a conference championship, and the only way you can do that is win them one game at a time. We can’t look ahead. We’re not a dominant type of team where we are going to beat everyone 55-0, but we are going to have to play good, solid football and win the fourth quarter; that’s what we’ve got done the last couple of weeks.”

Jones commented on Harris’ play in the game, “I don’t believe anyone offered him a scholarship out of high school. He’s probably the most competitive young man I’ve ever coached. He doesn’t say a lot but when the lights are on, he’s going to play and compete. That’s why he’s a great player.”

South Alabama will travel to Atlanta for a Thursday night game against Georgia State that’ll be aired by ESPNU starting at 6:30pm and radio pregame will start at 4:3pm locally on 99.5FM The Jag and 96.1 FM. Both teams will have a short week going into the game

Jags Host Warhawks In Homecoming Match Up

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

South Alabama had their 24 hours to enjoy the win over Troy, but they quickly got back to work. They are set to host Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday, October 21 for homecoming.

In the second half of the Jaguars game in Troy, the offense converted over 50% of their 3rd down attempts, a drastic improvement over the first half when they converted zero of their seven 3rd down attempts.

The Jags offense ranks 120th in total offense with 311.5 yards per game and 109th in yards per play at just under five yards per play. Pair that with the Warhawks defense that ranks 125th out of 129 FBS teams in total defense by allowing an average of 495.5 yards per game and 6.6 yards per play.

Add to it that the Jaguars lost a heart breaker of a game in Monroe last season in overtime 42-35. ULM also leads the all-time series 2-1 over the Jags. USA gained 516 yards of offense, but were flagged 12 times for 83 yards in penalties.

The Jaguar defense also has a chip on their shoulder from last season. They allowed the Warhawks to go 4-of-4 on fourth down attempts.

Head coach Joey Jones and offensive coordinator Richard Owens has a decision to make. Cole Garvin started the season as the starting quarterback, but was injured in the first series against Oklahoma State in the second game of the season. From there, Dallas Davis took over the starting job until he, too, was recovering from an injury suffered in the Jags game against Idaho. Garvin started under center against Louisiana Tech and again against Troy. But he was replaced late in the first half against the Trojans in favor of Davis to give the offense a spark.

The offensive output in the second half happened despite losing Xavier Johnson in the first half with what was reported as a sprained ankle. It concerned fans seeing him taken to the locker room on a cart without his shoe. But it seems like the extra rest between games may allow him to suit up for the game.

During the Monday press conference, Zach Beford said “Every one [game] is a big one. We want to win every single one for the rest of the year. The fact that it’s homecoming, hopefully we just get some more support from our fans and around the city. But it should be a fun environment with homecoming and hopefully we can get a W.”

USA had a great group of fans travel to Troy who were very loud and provided lots of excitement for the team. The team gave a big thanks to the Jaguar fans who made the environment electric for the team.

The Warhawks come off a 47-37 loss to Georgia State at home. Since 2014, they are 4-10 in conference games away from home, but are 2-0 this season.

South Alabama’s kickoff coverage was much better against Troy. They’ll need to keep it up though, ULM’s Marcus Green had a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter against Georgia State. Later Green scored on an 80-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.

What do the Jags need to do to win:

The offense can’t play down to their competition. They need to continue to improve. In the second half, the Jags converted 3rd downs which helped them keep possession of the ball and give the defense some rest. The ULM defense has not performed well all season, but they’ll look to play better coming off of their first conference loss of the season.

Special teams forced a fumble and recovered a muffed punt. They also covered kickoffs the best they have all season. Corliss Waitman can boom the ball a mile and has been a great weapon to help flip the field and give the defense a big advantage. Finally, Gavin Patterson nailed a career-long of 47-yards.

The defense played lights-out in Troy, except for the one scoring series for Troy. The secondary played strong and will need to keep improving with players like Marcus Green lining up looking to take advantage of the more inexperienced players on the field because of injuries.

The messageboard fans would like to see Coach Jones show more emotion on the sidelines. Some of them will not be happy no matter what, but winning will make fans out of just about anyone.

Kickoff is set for 4pm at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The game can be seen on online on ESPN3 and heard on 99.5 The Jag FM and 96.1 FM in the Mobile area in addition to streamed online by iHeartRadio via 99.5 The Jag.

Jaguars Travel To Troy And Stun The Trojans 19-8

October 14, 2017 · By · Filed Under Battle For The Belt, Football · Comment 

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 went to Troy Wednesday night on a mission, and they accomplished their mission in commanding fashion with a 19-8 win to return the rivalry belt to Mobile.

The Jaguars went into the game a 16.5 point underdog with only the die hard of Jaguar fan base thinking they even had a shot to win the game. If you listened to online message boards, it was going to be a blowout and the head coach would need to be fired on the sidelines after the game and should pull a Southern Cal by letting the coach find his own way home.

But none of that came to pass, instead the defense and set the tone for the game. Six pass breakups, seven tackles for loss, two sacks, three turnovers on downs, three fumble recoveries and an interception.

That’s textbook definition of what defensive coordinator Kane Wommack calls ‘Swarm D’.

Head coach Joey Jones and his staff put together a great game plan and the players executed well. The offense struggled some in the first half outside of their one touchdown drive.

The offense came out in the second half with a commanding drive to extend their lead while converting over half of the third-downs they faced in the second half.

The entire team was spurred on by a large contingent of South Alabama fans who made the trip for the game. They were loud, proud, and full of energy. They were another textbook example of what the Jaguars need at home week-in and week-out.

The Jags first score was set up by a 57 yard punt by Corliss Waitman when Carlos Robinson forced Marcus Jones to cough up the ball which Collier Smith recovered at the Troy 46. Starting quarterback Cole Garvin connected with Tra Minter on a screen pass for 37 yards to set eventually set up Xavier Johnson to cap off the drive with a one yard leap into the end zone, giving USA a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.

Waitman would again be huge for the Jags. He booted away a 54 yard punt to the Troy 4 yard line, but a block in the back would put the line of scrimmage at the 2 yard line. On 2nd and 11, Troy’s star running back Jordan Chunn could be bottled up and taken down for a safety extending the Jaguars lead to 9-0. Which would be the score at halftime.

The Jaguars offense came out early in the second half, led by Dallas Davis off the bench, with intentions of making a statement. They were 0-for-7 on 3rd down conversions in the first half, but converted all three of their first possession of the second half. Two of them were pass completions to Sam Harris and the other was a touchdown pass over the middle to Malik Stanley to cap off an 11 play, 64 yard drive to go up 16-0.

“Cole struggled a little bit and I felt like I needed to get Dallas in the game,” Jaguar head coach Joey Jones said after the game. “He directed us down the field for a score. He played a good half.”

Gavin Patterson would add a career long 47-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to give South Alabama a 19-0 lead and sent the Trojan faithful to the exits.

After forcing a three and out, the Jaguars started at their own 43. On 2nd and 6, Davis connected with Minter for a 49 yard gain on another screen pass. Facing 4th and goal at the 4, the Jaguar coaching staff pulled out a trick play attempting to put another dagger in the Trojans, but the defense snuffed it and sacked Davis for a 15 yard loss on an intentional grounding call when he tried the fling the ball away.

This breathed some life back into the Trojans, who promptly put together their best drive of the game going 81 yards in 9 plays for their only score of the game to make it 19-8 after they converted the two-point conversion.

Troy attempted an on-sides kick, which hit and bounced off of a Jaguar but was recovered by David Gardner at the Troy 48. But three plays late, on 4th and 1, Denzel Foster was dropped for a loss of two yards giving Troy great field position with 4:30 left in the game.

The Jaguar defense bent but did not break. The secondary, which has been ravaged by injuries, helped force three-consecutive incomplete passes from the Jaguar 13 yard line. Needing two scores, Trojan head coach Neal Brown opted to attempt a 30 yard field goal by Evan Legassey, which he missed wide left, just like he did a 27-yard attempt in the first half.

From there, the Jags kept the ball on the ground and ran the clock out for the win.

The USA offense ended the game with 224 yards of total offense, only 48 of them on the ground with the other 176 yards coming through the air. Troy gained 299 yards, only 30 of them through the air.

Cole Garvin started the game for USA and went 4-of-10 for 56 yards and an interception. Dallas Davis came in late in the first half and went 7-of-10 for 120 yards and a touchdown.

Malik Stanley led the Jaguar receivers with four catches for 53 yards an the lone touchdown. Tra Minter caught three passes for 83 yards setting up both touchdowns. Sam Harris had two catches for 25 yards, both were to convert 3rd downs. Foster and Jahmmir Taylor both caught a pass also.

Denzel Foster was the Jaguars leading rusher with 30 yards on nine carries. Minter added 21 yards on 12 carries. Deonta Moore had 10 yards on six carries. Xavier Johnson, who left the game in the first half with a sprained ankle, had 4 yards on seven carries with the Jaguars lone rushing touchdown.

Troy’s star running back Jordan Chunn left the game early with an injury finished with 28 yards on 10 carries. Josh Anderson added 10 yards on three carries and Henderson had 9 yards on two carries.

Brandon Silvers went 24-of-46 for 263 yards and an interception. Kaleb Barker completed his only pass attempt for 6 yards. Emanual Thompson led the Trojans with six catches for 67 yards. Eight other receivers caught passes as well.

“I know we’ve got a good football team,” head coach Joey Jones said after the game. “I never doubted them, I love them. We know we have a bunch of conference games coming up and we are going to get after our preparation for the game next week with ULM, but right now we are going to enjoy this one. I’s a huge win for our program and puts us with one more win in the conference. That’s our goal to win the [Sun Belt] Conference championship and it’s still out there for us.

“It’s a huge, huge win for our program. That’s three out of the last four we’ve beaten these guys, and two out of three with the Belt. I’m so proud of the way our guys played. They fought their guts out tonight. It was a joy to watch.”

“They outcoached us,” Troy head coach Neal Brown said in his postgame press conference. “Our guys were not ready to play and that’s on me; that’s disappointing. We didn’t take advantage of a great opportunity. It’s an extremely disappointing evening.”

“The challenge of this defense has been, can we finish a game?,” USA defensive coordinator Kane Wommack said. “I think when you play the way that we did in the second half, to take the momentum from the get-go, that was the difference.”

“This win is huge for us,” said quarterback Dallas Davis. “We came in 1-4, which I don’t even like saying that record, and Troy is a good team; they beat LSU. We practiced hard all week and it’s a big rivalry game for us, so we knew we had to bring it, and we did both offensively and defensively.”

“I just wanted to make sure that I did my job and make sure there wasn’t a drop from his type of performance to mine,” said defensive back Khalil McDonald, who started in place of Malcolm Buggs when he was unable to play. “I did my job and played my heart out and wanted to do it for the team.”

“We had been talking about this game all week,” said Jeremy Reaves when talking about what this win means to the seniors on the team. “This win wasn’t only for us, but also for recruiting and the years to come for our program. Getting this win benefits me a lot [personally] because I get to say that I was able to get another win at Troy; I’m 2-0 here. We’ve been through so much adversity and we dedicated this season to turning the program around. To be able to come out on top in this big game is huge.”

South Alabama will have another long week to prepare for their next game. The Jags will return home to host Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday, October 21 for their annual homecoming game. Kickoff is scheduled for 4pm at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

Jags Travel To Troy In Annual Battle of the Belt

October 10, 2017 · By · Filed Under Football · Comment 

The Jags (1-4, 0-1 Sun Belt Conference) travel a couple hours up the road to Troy (4-1, 1-0 SBC) for a midweek match up against the Trojans in the annual ‘Battle for the Belt’ as a 17-point underdog.

After USA replaced Bryant Vincent at offensive coordinator, the Jags took Louisiana Tech to the fourth quarter trailing by a single point, but offensively they stumbled and the Tech offense took advantage of a tired and banged up defense to score a couple times in the final quarter to pull away for a 34-16 win.

But the Jags have had a long week to continue to gel and game plan with coach Owens as the offensive coordinator. Against La. Tech, the Jags 3rd down conversion rate was 5 of 15, which was better but still needs to be improved upon.

South Alabama’s defense will come up against one of the best quarterback-running back pairs in the conference. Brandon Silvers is patient and makes good decisions with the ball. Jordan Chunn scored twice in the fourth quarter last season in Mobile in the Trojan’s come-from-behind win. Both were long, 80-yard drives too.

The Trojan offense isn’t a big play offense. They just move the ball methodically and stay on schedule keeping their playbook wide open.

Chunn is averaging 5.4 yards per attempt and 98 yards per game and had six touchdowns on the season. He is clearly the the workhorse with over double the rushing yards of the next closest back, Jamarius Henderson, and over three times as many rushing attempts (91 to 26) as Henderson. Actually Chunn’s attempts are over half of the teams rushing attempts on the season.

Troy only has two passing touchdowns on the season, but they have 13 rushing touchdowns to make up for it. Silvers is completing 64.8% of his attempts for 1,241 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Defensively the Trojans are tough against the run only allowing 108.8 yards per game, 3.5 yards per rush and only two rushing touchdowns all season. They allow 231 yards per game through the air, 10.8 yards per catch and 8 touchdowns. But they have intercepted opposing quarterbacks five times this season. Including two interceptions over their last two games against Akron and LSU.

Though the Trojans allowed 428 yards to LSU and only gained 363, but they gained 206 yards and all three touchdowns on the ground. Silvers was 16 of 28 for 157 yards, his longest completion was only 20 yards.

The quarterback position has had problems staying healthy early on this season. Cole Garvin started the first game before injuring his ankle on the first possession against Oklahoma State in their second game of the season. Dallas Davis took over and started the next two games before Davis re-aggravated a shoulder injury that he had off-season surgery on.

On Monday, head coach Joey Jones announced that Garvin will start again but also said that Davis’ arm strength was back too. Garvin, through three games, is 41-of-77 for 447 yards with two touchdowns through the air and on the ground but also two interceptions.

Injuries in the secondary have really hurt the Jaguar defense, but they have played their hearts out. Jeremy Reaves has stepped up his game even further to lead the defense each game.

Jones also announced on Monday that left guard Tyler Grimsley suffered a knee injury against Louisiana Tech and will miss the remainder of the season.

What must the Jaguar do to win:

Offensively, the Jags MUST extend drives by converting on third down. The Jag defense has played so well all season, but if the offense can extend their drives and give them some extra rest then maybe they can avoid late game fatigue.

The offense cannot afford mistakes. They can’t accumulate lots of offensive penalties and put themselves behind the down and distance. Nor can they give up negative plays on offense either.

Defensively, the Jags can’t give up big plays trying to get the Trojans behind the down and distance schedule. They have shown that they can play well against great quarterbacks like Shea Patterson and Mason Rudolph.

Get Garvin comfortable early with short, high-percentage completions for positive gains. If they can get use the short to intermediate routes to open up their rushing game then Xavier and company can get going as well.

The last point is the Jags can’t play against the same officiating crew that called the Idaho game. While the office of officiating were forthcoming enough to say that some calls were blown in the Idaho game, but realizing that two or three days after the game is much too late and is an injustice to the student-athletes playing the game.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7pm at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Troy, Alabama. It will be televised nationally on ESPN2 and can also be heard on 99.5 The Jags FM and 96.1 FM in the Mobile area and online world-wide through the iHeartRadio platform.

Jags Fall To Louisiana Tech On The Road 34-16

October 1, 2017 · By · Filed Under Football · Comment 

The Jaguars (1-4) entered the fourth quarter trailing by one point, but the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (3-2) pulled away for a 34-16 win.

The Jaguars had a whirlwind start to the week when, on Monday morning, Head coach Joey Jones announced that he had relieved offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent of his duties. Later in the day on Monday, Coach Jones announced that Richard Owens would take on offensive coordinator duties as well as coaching quarterbacks and that Chase Smith would coach the offensive linemen as well as tight ends.

The Jaguar defense kept up their high level of play on the first series on the field by forcing a fumble and recovering it at the Jaguar 16 yard line. It only took the Jaguar offense three plays to put it in the end zone, two runs by Xavier Johnson for 8 and 47 yards respectively, then Cole Garvin connected with Jamarius Way for a 29 yard touchdown to take an early 7-0 lead.

Tech would answer with a score, the final 40 yards were on a J’Mar Smith pass to Teddy Veal to tie the game. After a Jaguar three-and-out, Tech mounted another drive to take a 14-7 lead with 4:18 left in the opening quarter.

The second quarter opened with a Bulldog field goal of 31 yards to extend their lead to 17-7.

The jags drove to the Bulldog 10 yard line before Garvin threw an interception in the end zone and returned out to the 1 yard line. The defense would hold them on 3rd and 15 forcing a punt and the Jags would drive down to the Bulldog 9 yard line before having to settle for a field goal cutting the lead to 17-10 with 4:48 left in the half.

The Jags would get the ball back with 2:47 left in the opening half at their own 45 yard line after a 25 yard punt. USA would drive down to the Tech 24 yard line with :02 left on the clock. Gavin Patterson would nail another field goal putting the Jags behind 17-13 going into the halftime locker room.

Tech would drive to the Jaguar 26 on their opening possession of the second half but would miss the field goal wide right.

The Jags got in gear again behind Garvin’s arm. The drive would stall at the Bulldog 29 yard line again and Patterson would connect on a career-long 46 yard field goal cutting the lead to just one point 17-16 with 5:26 left in the third quarter.

After a Corliss Waitman punt to start the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs started on their own 10 yard line and would drive down the field in 7 plays with the final 30 coming on a J’Mar Smith pass to Adrian Hardy for a touchdown, extending their lead to 24-16 with 12:17 left in the game.

Another three-and-out by the offense and a nicely placed punt by Waitman had the Bulldogs starting at their own 11 yard line. But Smith’s throws and a facemask penalty on Taji Stewart aided them in driving down the field. The Jag defense held them to a field goal to make it 27-16 with 4:18 left.

On the next Jaguar possession, facing 4th and 3 at their own 27, Jones and Owens decided to go for it but Garvin’s pass to Johnson would be dropped turning the ball over on downs. Then the Bulldogs only needed one play with Boston Scott scampering 27 yards for the game-sealing touchdown.

One more Jaguar possession saw Garvin complete his first pass to Sa’Mory Collier for three yards then the next two passes fall incomplete before punting away. Tech would run out the clock for the win.

The Jaguar offense gained 333 yards total, but only 98 on the ground. Cole Garvin would go 21-of-45 for a touchdown but with two interceptions in his first start in three weeks after being injured on the first possession against Oklahoma State on September 8. Louisiana Tech gained 479 yards overall, 317 of them through the air on 24-of-38 passing.

Xavier fell short of breaking the school record for career rushing yards with only 89 for the game on 12 carries. Minter added 17. Jamarius Way led the Jagaur receivers with 67 yards on 5 catches and the only touchdown. Sam Harris had 59 on 5 catches with four other Jags catching passes.

Boston Scott led the Bulldog rushing attack with 76 yards on 6 carries and a touchdown. J’Mar Smith threw three touchdowns with no interceptions. He completed passes to eight different receivers with Teddy Veal leading all receivers with 88 yards on 5 catches with a touchdown.

USA managed three sacks on Smith, all in the third quarter. Jimmie Gipson and Chris Henderson both had one and Tyree Turner and Finesse Middleton both grabbing a half sack each. Nigel Lawrence forced the lone fumble.

Though the offense seemed to fizzle out late in the game, it did show progress from previous games. I think with about 10 days to prepare for Troy and allow Owens to settle into his new role, the Jags will be ready for the next seven conference games.

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

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

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.

Jags Open 2017 Sun Belt Conference Schedule Against Idaho

September 20, 2017 · By · Filed Under Football · Comment 

South Alabama earned a much needed tune-up win last week against Alabama A&M. The team scored points in all three phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams.

Now that they finally put a notch in the win column after starting the season with two extremely difficult games against Power-5 schools, they can turn their attention to the first conference game of this young season. Last season the team had the highest of highs but also some quite low points. They started the season with the big win over Mississippi State, then a few weeks later they defeated their first ranked opponent in San Diego State. But in conference they only managed to go 2-6.

But this is a new season and their first conference game is right around the corner.

The Idaho Vandals will make their second-ever trip to Mobile, their previous trip started off great but became a bit of a nightmare after halftime. The Vandals scored the first 24 points of the game and had a 24-7 lead at halftime. But Xavier Johnson re-energized the Jags by returning the opening kick of the second half 100 yards. By the midway point of third quarter the Jags were ahead 45-31 and held on for a 52-45 win.

So far this season the Jags have faced two big-time quarterbacks in Shea Patterson and Mason Rudolph. Both likely heading to the NFL one day. Idaho has a quarterback who could easily join them on the next level. Matt Lineham is a fourth-year starter for the Vandals with over 9,000 career yards passing and completing over 65% of his passing attempts.

Lineham’s father, Scott Lineham, is now the offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys. So he knows what it takes to get to the next level.

After dropping their first two games against USA, Lineham and the Vandals finally earned a 38-31 win over the Jags. Their win last season was one win on the way to a 9-4 record, including a win in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

But the Vandals do not look like the same team as last year after losing four of their top five receivers and three starting offensive linemen to graduation. They opened the season with a 28-6 win over Sacramento State, they’ve dropped back-to-back games against UNLV (44-16) and Western Michigan (37-28).

Through the first three games the Jaguar defense has looked pretty good despite losing 47-27 to Ole Miss and 44-7 to Oklahoma State. But the secondary has taken some hits.

Neiko Robinson has been lost for the season due to a foot injury. Now sophomore Bobby Flott and freshman (and Sun Belt Conference defensive player of the week) Gus Nave are both out of the season with knee injuries.

Now it’s next man up. Sterrling Fisher has stepped up and former wide receiver Quinton Lane is adjusting well to his move to cornerback.

In the previous two games the Vandals have run for a total of seven touchdowns and have had a running back rush for at least 135 yards each of those games. This season running back Aaron Duckworth has the longest run (74 yards) and pass reception (60 yards) of the season for his team. Of the three runs of 40 yards or more last season, they all belonged to Duckworth.

Paul Petrino’s defense is stingy on third down. They rank 2nd in the Sun Belt and 41st nationally by allowing opponents to convert 31.8% of third down attempts.

Keys to a Jaguar win:
Third down conversions will be key. USA has only converted 17.9% of their third downs so far this season. They can’t get hung up on a statistic here but they need to play to win each snap and the key to that is to keep drives alive.

Stopping the run and putting pressure on Lineham will be big. As previously mentioned, the last two games have seen running backs rush for over 135 yard in each of them. Duckworth will look to make it three in a row and he has a history of breaking long plays.

In Lineham’s first three games against USA, he has five touchdown passes and six interceptions while completing just over 60% of this attempts. The defense can’t allow a runner to get free nor can they allow Lineham too much time to throw, even with all the new receivers this year.

South Alabama and Idaho will kick off at 1pm at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Saturday, September 23. They need fans in the stands and they need them to be loud.

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