Jags Fall In Season Finale On Last Minute Touchdown

December 3, 2017 · 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

Thanksgiving Reflection And Looking To The Future

November 23, 2017 · 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 usajaguars.com

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.