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

Jags Travel To New Mexico State For Season Finale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”