Jags Host Sun Belt Leading Red Wolves On Senior Day

November 8, 2017 · 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 · 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.”

Jags Host Warhawks In Homecoming Match Up

October 17, 2017 · 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.