South Alabama Post First FBS, Sun Belt Victory

October 21, 2012 · Filed Under Football, Sun Belt Conference · 2 Comments 

The South Alabama Jaguars celebrate their double-overtime win against Florida Atlantic on Saturday. The win was the program’s first against an FBS opponent and also the first against a Sun Belt Conference team.

Lead by defense in the fourth quarter, the Jaguars fight their way back from a 14 point deficit in order to win it’s first ever game against a FBS opponent and also their first ever Sun Belt Conference.

Florida Atlantic would go up by 14 points early in the fourth quarter on a six yard rush on 3rd and goal. On the ensuing possession the Jags would start at their own 15 yard line but would move the ball down to the Owl 41 yards linbe before turning the ball over on downs.

The Jaguar defense would hold strong and force a three and out. The Owl punt would bounce into the end zone for a touchback.

Starting at their own 20, Metheny would come out firing by completing back to back catches to Jereme Jones for 14 and Greg Hollinger for 15 to quickly move the ball out to the Jaguar 49 yard line. After a rush for no gain by Terrance Timmons, a pass interference penalty would move the ball to the FAU 40 yard line. Then Metheny would complete a 27 yard pass to Gabe Loper to the FAU 13 yard line.

After an incomplete pass by Metheny to Jereme Jones, the Owls would be flagged for a personal foul to place the ball at the 5 yard line. Houston would go down for a loss of 3 yards back to the 8 yard line. A couple plays later the Jags are facing 4th down and goal from the FAU 7 yard line. The fourth down pass would fall incomplete but the FAU defender would be flagged for pass interference. Due to the penalty occurring in the end zone, the ball would be placed on the 1 yard line with an automatic first down.

Trey Fetner would run for a loss of one followed by Metheny rushing for no gain. After a time out, Metheny would hand the ball all to Demetre Baker who would plunge into the end zone for the touchdown to cut the Owl lead down to 31-24 with 5:45 left in the game.

The Jaguar defense would only allow four yards as they forced FAU to a three and out. The punt from their own 32 yard line would go 51 yards and T.J. Glover would lose two yards on the return to put the Jaguars first and 10 at their own 15 yard line with 3:54 left in the game.

The drive would start with a Baker rush for 18 yards before being force out of bounds at the Jaguar 33. Baker would run for another three yards on the next first down play. But back to back incomplete passes from Metheny to Jereme Jones and Gabe Loper would have the Jags facing fourth and 7 from their own 36 yard line.

The fourth down play would be another pass from Metheny to Gabe Loper down the left side, but it fell incomplete however FAU would have two flags thrown on them for pass interference. One would be declined and the other accepted to give the Jags 14 yards and an automatic first down at the midfield stripe.

Baker would rush for back-to-back gains of 8 and 4 yards for a first down at the Owls 38 yard line. Then Terrance Timmons would rush for four yards. On second and 6 at the FAU 34 yard line, Ross Metheny would find an opening and scamper 18 yards for a first and 10 at the FAU 16 yard line with 1:15 left in the fourth quarter.

After the time out, Ross Metheny would find Gabe Loper in the end zone for the 16 yard touchdown pass. Michel Chapuseaux would tack on the PAT and the Jags would have a tie game with 1:09 left in the fourth quarter.

The squib kick would be picked up and returned 11 yards to the FAU 39 yard line with 1:05 left in regulation. Graham Wilbert’s first two passing attempts would fall incomplete. But the third down pass would be caught for 19 yards to the Jaguar 42 yard line before stepping out of bounds. On the next play he would find the same receiver for another 16 yard completion to the Jaguar 26 yard line.

After an incomplete pass on first down, Pat Moore would sack Wilbert for a five yard loss back to the Jaguar 31 yard line forcing FAU to take a time out with 21 seconds remaining in regulation. After the time out, the Jags would let FAU line up before calling their final time out of the game to set up a defense for the play. After the Jaguar time out, on 3rd and 15, Wilbert would complete his pass to William Dukes, for the third time on the drive, for 16 yards and a first down at the Jaguar 15 yard line before getting out of bounds with about 15 seconds left in regulation.

Florida Atlantic head coach Carl Pelini sends out his field goal unit with Mitch Anderson, who is playing in his first game, to attempt the game winning field goal. Anderson, who already had one attempt blocked earlier in the game, would kick it low from the hashmarks and Pat Moore would get his hands up and block it with time expiring.

To begin overtime, FAU would win the toss and elect to go on defense first. The Jags, with the ball first, would start at the 25 yard line heading into the north end zone. On first down, Metheny would run for five yards to the 20 yard line. But back to back incompletions to Bryant Lavender and Greg Hollinger would force the Jags to kick a field goal from 37 yards to take a 34-31 lead, their first of the game.

FAU would then start their rebuttal possession with a four yard pass completion to the Jaguar 21 before being forced out of bounds. A run would only net two yards on second down. Then the quarterback keeper would lose one yard to the 20 yard line. Anderson would convert on the 37 yard field goal to force a second overtime.

In the second overtime, FAU would go on offense first again going into the north end zone. A two yard loss on the first down run would put the ball back at the Jaguar 27 yard line. Another rush for no gain on second down would set up third and 12 at the Jaguar 27 yard line. The third down pass would fall incomplete to force another field goal attempt from 44 yards. Kicking from the right hashmark the kick would be low again and Pat Moore would block it for the second time in the game.

South Alabama would then have the ball with the outcome of the game in their hands. Baker would run on first down for no gain. Baker would run again on second down for 7 yards. Then on third down, he would run again for no gain. After allowing the Jags to line up for the field goal attempt, Carl Pelini would call a time out to try to ice Chapuseaux.

After the time out, Chapuseaux’s 35 yard kick would never be in doubt. It flew right between the uprights and the crowd that had stayed went into complete pandemonium. The Jaguar players rushed the team on the field, coach Jones would get doused on the sidelines while FAU were quick to exit the stadium to get out from between the team and the students and band.

It was an amazing sight to behold as the Jaguars realized they broke their four game losing streak, won their first FBS game and also won their first Sun Belt Conference game.

FAU held edges in a couple key categories. They led in total yardage 461-359, passing yardage 303-179 and first downs 25-24. However the Jags did lead in rushing yardage 180-158 and time of possession 30:28 – 29:32. Penalties were down too with the Jags only being flagged four times for 50 yards while FAU was flagged 10 times for 80 yards. Neither side threw an interception. FAU fumbled once but recovered it themselves, while South Alabama fumbled twice but only lost one of them.

But FAU’s Anderson was 2-of-5 in field goals in his first ever game for the Owls, with all three misses being blocked. Michel Chapuseaux was a perfect 3-for-3 in route to the win.

FAU’s J. Wallace rushed 21 times for 101 yards to lead all in rushing. Demetre Baker, back from his suspension, rushed 16 times for 73 yards to lead the Jaguars running game. Timmons carried 11 times for 36 yards, Metheny had 13 carries for 34 yards and Glover carried 6 times for 29 yards. Jereme Jones, Trey Fetner and Kendall Houston also got carries in the game.

FAU’s Graham Wilbert was 27-of-41 for 303 yards and two touchdowns. Ross Metheny was 13-of-27 for 179 yards and one touchdown.

The game was definitely Gabe Loper’s coming out party. Loper caught four passes for 91 yards and a touchdown while also adding a blocked field goal and drawing a couple pass interference calls at key times for the Jaguars.

Jereme Jones had three catches for 19 yards and Greg Hollinger caught two passes for 34 yards. Lavender, Desmond Jones, Corey Besteda and Jared Palmer all caught a pass as well.

FAU’s William Dukes caught five passes for 119 yards and a 50 yard touchdown pass. Two other Owls had over 50 yards receiving as well.

Four Jaguars ended the game with double-digit tackles for the game, a first in school history. Terrell Brigham, B.J. Scott and Enrique Williams all recording 11 tackles and Alex Page adding 10 tackles as well. Clifton Crews and Jake Johnson both had eight tackles each as well. Darrius Morrow had four tackles and two passes defended. Pat Moore had three solo tackles all for loss to go with his two field goal blocks he was credited with.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of these young men and my [coaching] staff for what they’ve done — for hanging in there,” head coach Joey Jones said in the post game press conference. “They fought every day at practice, and the main reason we won the football game is because of character. These guys were down 14 points in the fourth quarter, and I didn’t see quit in anybody’s eyes. They kept fighting and all of a sudden we had a play or two go our way, and we were in the ballgame. We got into overtime, and Michel Chapuseaux did a great job kicking field goals at the end. I don’t know how many plays we made in the fourth quarter, but it was a bunch of them. My hat’s off to this team and the coaching staff for what they’ve done.”

Loper spoke after the game about the touchdown pass from Metheny to tie the game and give the Jags a chance to go into overtime. “All credit goes to Ross. He made a perfect pass. I leaned on the defensive back like the coaches taught me to. He had my hand hooked. It was a similar play to Arkansas State last week, and I just remembered that I had to redeem myself. The coaches have been preaching all week that if the officials don’t call it, take it out of their hands and make the play. That’s all I could think about. I was just blessed to have the ball thrown so perfectly.”

Ross Metheny spoke after the game giving praise to Loper. “Talk about a playmaker. We have been trying to get Gabe on the offensive side of the ball since week one, and he definitely has a special talent and the things he can do in the air to go get the ball are special,” Metheny said. “He’s only been working as a receiver for a couple of weeks, and he already has the offense down, knows which way to line up and runs his routes really well. He’s definitely a guy we can count on, and I’m fortunate that he’s my teammate.”

Michel Chapuseaux spoke about the game winning kick after the game. “When the time had come, my heart was pounding and I was nervous. I had to settle in because I’ve practiced so long for this,” he explained. “When I start taking my steps over, I zone out everything and I tell myself to be ready for it. When I kicked it, I made sure it was between the posts and then I just turned around. I didn’t even look at it. I just let the crowd tell me if it went in, and then I had a swarm of teammates just hitting me. We definitely needed this win. We wanted it more. We didn’t give up, and this is definitely going to help us throughout the rest of the season.”

Senior Linebacker Jake Johnson spoke after the game about how the defense played. “The game is never over until it’s over. Anybody can win, anything can happen. We came back and got that touchdown. We had three blocked field goals. Chap had three kicks that he made.  We played well in all facets.”

“Defensively we had a good game plan, we just weren’t communicating as well as we should have in the first half,” Johnson continued. “We communicated better and stopped them a lot more in the second half. We just never gave up. That’s one thing you can’t ever do is give up.”

No one could say it better than Ross Metheny though. “All I can say is wow, what a game. Talk about a monkey off your back, getting the first Division I [FBS] win. We needed the signature win to propel us. We’re definitely going to embrace this win and cherish it, but we’re still hungry. We want more and we want to win more, so we’re going to come on Monday ready to work toward our next opponent.”

South Alabama will travel to face Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday with kickoff scheduled for 6pm according to the ULL website. The game is not scheduled to be broadcast on television, however ULL does have a online video stream available.

South Alabama blocks the overtime field goal attempt by FAU’s Mitch Anderson in the second overtime possession by the Owls.

Coach Joey Jones Show Recap 2012-10-16

October 17, 2012 · Filed Under Football, Joey Jones Radio Show · Comment 
Coach Jones

Head coach Joey Jones working with the field goal unit during South Alabama’s Scrimmage on Saturday, March 3, 2012.

Head Coach Joey Jones and host Lee Shirvanian was joined by defensive backs coach Duwan Walker at Baumhower’s Restaurant on Airport Boulevard for the Joey Jones Radio Show this week.

To start off the show Lee asked “What was your feeling like when you left the field in Jonesboro?” “I felt good deep down, but hurting just because we lost and because you never want to lose,” Jones answered. But he felt they made lots of progress on offense with making first downs, moved the ball and converting on third down. All the things they have been talking about over the last few weeks.

He commended the defense on playing well as well as special teams with a blocked punt, good kickoff returns and good kickoff coverage.

Coach Jones said that when he saw that they were down by six points in the fourth quarter he thought they could pull out the win, but ended up losing by seven points. He was very proud that they took a good football team down to the wire. Deep down he feels really good about how they did, but as a competitor he never wants to lose.

Bo Bishop from Baumhower’s Restaurant asked about taking something positive away from a loss. Coach Jones said that if you look at Arkansas State, they won the Sun Belt Conference Championship last year, they have a quarterback who was the player of the year last year as well as returning several seniors. The South Alabama players walked out onto the field and were ready to play, they didn’t let that phase them and that makes Coach Jones really proud of them.

Lee pointed out the the Jags ran over 80 plays in the game while Arkansas State was limited to around 60. He further mentioned that the Jags led in just about every stat except the points on the scoreboard. Coach Jones pointed out that the big thing was that the offense went out and controlled the ball, something they haven’t really done until this game.

Lee said that Ross Metheny did a great job for the Jags. Coach Jones said that he has great leadership skills and the players really listen to him. He goes out there with lots of confidence. Another thing he did was he did a great job of extending the play. If the throw downfield wasn’t there then he checked down and found an open running back or ran with it and go positive yardage. He didn’t force it downfield which helped them get first downs.

Lee pointed out the penalties. Coach Jones acknowledged them and said that they jumped offsides a number of times while trying to blitz or get to the line. Lee mentioned how Rick Cleveland mentioned during the game that the quarterback was using an odd cadence to draw them offsides. But Jones said that that was not a reason and that the defensive linemen need to watch the ball instead of listening to the quarterbacks cadence.

But Coach Jones said that if they cut down penalties they will have a chance to win.

When asked how Coach Walker thought the secondary played, he answered by saying he thought they played well. They could have done better, but their number one thing is to prevent big plays and they did a good job at limiting them.

Orthopedic Group Injury Report: Ucambre Williams will probably be out with a knee injury which didn’t look good. Shaun Artz hurt his back, waiting to hear more about that. Everyone else fared well.

Lee mentioned that both of them are offensive linemen and that they may not have good depth at there. Coach Jones said they have decent depth but you worry about having others step up and be ready as well.

Jones said that Chris May moved into Williams’ position and played most of the game since Ucambre was hurt on the second play of the game. Drew Dearman could come back into the lineup to fill in for Shaun Artz. When Lee asked about backups, Coach Jones said that they actually pulled a couple players from the scout team to get ready and play some with the other guys.

Coach Jones was pretty quick to answer Lee’s question about the status of Demetre Baker for this weeks game. Jones said he thought he would be alright, but that “the ball is in his court” and that was all he wanted to say on that subject.

Lee further mentioned that it was due to a violation of team rules. Lee further pressed if he might suit up again for the Jags and Coach Jones went back to his previous statement saying “it’s up to him”. He did acknowledge that Baker was not on the depth chart as of now for the Florida Atlantic game.

Lee then turned the focus to Coach Walker and the secondary. What did they do to rectify the problems they had in the secondary from last season. They hit the Junior College’s well looking for players. Tyrell Pearson is short, but is a mature, good player. Same with Darrius Morrow, he plays very well and came from the junior college ranks.

Walker also mentioned B.J. Scott as someone that has sparked the secondary. He said that it was unfortunate he wasn’t able to go through spring workouts, but he is now hitting his prime during the season.

What are the ingredients for good defensive back. Walker said that is always changing. This week the Jags will be playing receivers who are 6’4″ or so and size will play a part. But they are looking for players who are electric, can make plays and play smart. Speed and size are something they have to go after.

Lee mentioned that South Alabama is playing teams with receivers that are 6’3″ or 6’4″ and asked how do the shorter defensive backs compensate for that? Coach Jones said that they have to have great technique. Ideally you want guys who are tall and fast, normally smaller guys can be faster. But they try to get guys who are 5’10 up to 6′ tall with speed who can cover. Defensive backs can make it up by coming up between the receivers hands and knocking the ball away if they play with good technique and play smart. Just because they are small does not mean that they will have the deep ball thrown over them.

Lee asked Coach Walker how they grade defensive backs. Coach Walker said that mental errors and technique are big keys in grading the defensive backs.

Lee asked that if the coaches can tell immediately if a defensive back missed an assignment or if they have to wait to see video to determine who it was. Coach Walker immediately said that they know who it is and who has coverage responsibility to whom and where.

Lee mentioned that high school coaches always mention that homecoming is such a big distraction at that level. He then asked Coach Jones if homecoming is a distraction on the college level. Coach Jones indicated that it’s not a big distraction on the college level. In high school they have so many events going on in the whole school. College is not as intense as high school.

Lee then turns the focus to Florida Atlantic and mentioned their record is the same as the Jags at 1-5. But he cautioned that they have played some good teams in Alabama and Georgia. Lee then asked if Coach Jones thought this may be a very winnable game for South Alabama. Coach Jones was quick to say that they cannot overlook anyone, but that they feel good about their chances. They just have to go out and work hard to make the plays to win the game.

A caller asked that if the Jags might give the next game ball after Florida Atlantic to coach Kurt Crain’s family. Coach Jones said they have not thought about, but they just put up a plaque in the football fieldhouse dedicated to his memory and they have a “KC” sticker on the helmets as well.

Lee asked what kind of problems FAU may present to the Jaguar secondary. Coach Walker said that they are very athletic and, from the film, they look alot like South Alabama’s receivers. Coach Walker also mentioned that they ran the ball and threw the ball well against Georgia.

Lee asked if this was another team that runs a spread offense. Coach Jones said yes, but that they are not quite like they have seen in the last two games with Troy and Arkansas State.

Coach Jones likened the stature of the FAU quarterback to NC State’s Mike Glennon, he is about 6’6″ tall and are similar type quarterback who can deliver the ball well. He knows he has tall receivers so he can hang the ball high and let his receivers go up to get it.

Lee mentioned the Jags ranking in the BCS. He said that the Jags are 111 in the list while FAU is 110, but that both are above teams like UNLV, Colorado, Colorado State and Akron among others. Coach Jones said that the football in the Sun Belt Conference is really good and that the Jags are getting better, but that they are not there yet.

Coach Jones answered a question posed by Lee asking about why couldn’t it be South Alabama traveling to play Alabama next season instead of Georgia State. Coach Jones said he doesn’t know, he’s not the one who makes that decision at Alabama. He did indicated that they have talked to them about it, but that was all.

After a break, Lee told coach Jones that when Coach Jones started at South Alabama, one of his assistants said that he would have no problem going head-to-head recruiting against Alabama and Auburn. Lee then asked if they have gone head-to-head against them for any recruits. Coach Jones said that they have but that they cannot mention any names of recruits.

Email question asked what it would take for the school to call this season a success and how are they defining success for the program today? Coach Jones said that he normally sets goals for wins in a season, but this year is different in that they do not have as many players as most of the teams they are facing this season. But they are approaching it on a week-to-week basis to see if they are improving. They don’t really know how to measure this season, but at the end of the season they will know where they stand in the conference.

Lee then turned to coach Walker for his input on the question. He said that it’s progress. They have to work hard every week to get better and earn respect from their opponents.

Jags Fall At Home To UTSA 33-31

September 2, 2012 · Filed Under Football · Comment 

Receiver Jereme Jones looks in the pass from CJ Bennett in the first half of the 33-31 loss to Texas-San Antonio.

South Alabama fell in their season-opening game versus Texas-San Antonio 33-31 on Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Four turnovers and ill timed penalties did the team in. Each turnover resulted in a UTSA score.

UTSA kicker Sean Ianno, who’s game winning field goal attempt was blocked last year in the Alamo Dome, made the 51 yard attempt with 16 seconds left in the game to avenge a 30-27 double-overtime loss to South Alabama last season. It was UTSA’s first-ever road victory in the program’s second season of competition. This was the second consecutive loss at home for the Jags and second loss all-time at home.

The opening drive went as planned, they drove 75 yards in eight plays and scored a touchdown. An 11 yard rush by Demetre Baker capped off the drive as the Jags took the early 7-0 lead.

On their next possession, the Jaguars were driving again and reached deep into UTSA territory before quarterback C.J. Bennett tossed an interception in the end zone to end the drive. UTSA took that turnover and drove 80 yards to answer and tie the game at 7-7.

The ensuing kickoff was returned by T.J. Glover from near the goal line out past the 50 yard line before he fumbled. The ball was recovered by UTSA and scored a second touchdown to take the lead 14-7.

In the second quarter, UTSA kicked field goals of 47 and 32 to increase their lead to 20-7 before South Alabama fought back last in the quarter. The Jags drove down and scored on a play-action pass to running back Desmond Jones with 20 seconds left in the half to cut the lead to 20-14.

Michel Chapuseaux added a 43 yard field goal in the third quarter to cut the UTSA lead to 20-17. Later, Kendall Houston waltzed in from one yard out to give the Jags a 24-20 advantage early in the fourth quarter.

The roadrunners scored on a 34 yard forth-down play to retake the lead at 27-24. After the kickoff, Bennett took the snap and was preparing to make a throw, but Demetre Baker cut in front of him and brushed the ball out of Bennett’s hands. The fumble was recovered by UTSA at the Jaguar 21 yard line. The defense held them to a field goal, but were trailing 30-24.

The Jags fought back though. Bennett found a wide open Jereme Jones open down the left side for a 34 yard touchdown pass to put the Jags back on top 31-30 with 2:46 to play.

On the ensuing kickoff, Chapuseaux’s kick was fielded just short of the end zone and returned out to the 31 yard line, but Tyrome Bivins was flagged for a personal foul, the 15 yard penalty put UTSA at their 46 yard line. The Jags would get five of those yards back on a false start penalty.

After an incomplete pass, UTSA’s Okotcha rushed for five yards before being forced out of bounds by Jake Johnson. Their 3rd and 10 play was a pass completion from quarterback Soza to Armstrong for 15 yards to the Jags 39 yard line. Okotcha then had back to back runs for no gain and four yards. Soza completed a pass for one yard to get to the Jaguar 34 yard line before the roadrunners used their final time out to bring on the kicking unit. Sean Ianno nailed the 51 yard kick to take the lead 33-31 with 16 seconds left.

T.J. Glover returned the kickoff to the Jaguar 29 yard line. Terrance Timmons gained seven yards on the next play, but could not get out of bounds quick enough as time expired.

UTSA out-gained the Jags 398 to 308, out-rushed the Jags 126 to 183 and out passed the Jags 182-215. Jags held the edge in first downs 18 to 16 though.

Jaguar quarterbacks combined to go 15-of-26 with one interception and two touchdowns. UTSA led the way in penalties with 11 for 114 yards while the Jags only had seven for 80 yards, with the personal foul on the kickoff return being the most costly of the game.

Jags returned two punts for 37 yards, averaging 18.5 yards per return, and returned two kickoffs for 95 yards, which averaged 47.5 yards per return. UTSA returned two punts for -7 yards and three kickoffs for 58 yards.

UTSA held the edge in time of possession 33:07 to 26:53. The Jags fumbled three times and lost all three.

Demetre Baker led the Jags on the ground with 63 yards rushing on 12 carries with Kendall Houston rushing 11 times for 43 yards, Terrance Timmons ran four times for 20 yards, Bennett rushed nine times for 12.

Bennett went 15-of-24 for 182 yards, two touchdowns and one interception with one sack. Ross Metheny went 0-for-2.

Jereme Jones led the receivers with 51 yards on three receptions, including the long 34 yard catch late in the fourth quarter. Corey Besteda also had three recptions for 40 yards. Greg Hollinger added 42 yards on two receptions, Glover had 25 yards on two catches, Lavender had 12 yards on two catches, Kendall Houston added 10 yards on two catch as well.

T.J. Glover led the game with 145 all-purpose yards with 25 receiving, 95 in kickoff returns, 37 in punt returns but -12 on one reverse.

Jake Johsnon and Enrique Williams both led the Jags with eight total stops. Alonzo Long added seven stops and Darrius Morrow and Tyrell Pearson both added five. Pearson picked off one Soza pass and returned it 28 yards.

After the game, Jaguar head coach Joey Jones spoke about the game.  “First of all I want to congratulate UTSA. I thought they played a great game, and my hat’s off to them,” he began. “They played well, and we knew they would. They played us into double overtime last year, and we knew they had a good football team. They have a lot of good players. They didn’t do anything any different. We obviously turned the ball over too many times. I think it came down to turnovers and key penalties at the wrong time.”

Speaking about the final Jaguar touchdown to regain the lead with 2:46 left in the game. “We had to find the right time to run the play,” stated Jones. “We got in the formation and they ran what we expected them to.  Everyone did their job and we executed. We saw a mismatch with Jeremé.  We had been waiting to call that play, and we found the right spot.”
“The offense showed a little fight. We teach ball security, and today we got away from that. Turning the ball over is something you can’t do in a close game, and they [the turnovers] really came back to bite us in the end. The good thing is all these mistakes are correctable.”

Jags Ready To Embark On Toughest Season Yet

August 31, 2012 · Filed Under Football · Comment 

On the eve of South Alabama’s season opener against Texas-San Antonio it’s a good time to look at what this season means to the program. After three seasons, the first two undefeated, and a 23-4 record the Jaguars are about to embark on their most challenging quest yet.

Last season they stepped up and faced two FBS teams, the first in the programs history. This season, they will face their first full Division I schedule. The only non FBS school on the schedule is FCS Nicholls State. Additionally, with the Hawaii rule, the Jags will play 13 games in 14 weeks this season including a full eight game Sun Belt schedule.

This is what the Jaguars have been working towards for the last several years. When they take the field, they will be a transitional FBS member.

Coach Jones can finally guage where his team stands in the FBS pecking order. “I think the biggest challenge for us, especially early, will be the depth on our team,” he Jones. “We’ve been recruiting to Division I really just this year. Now that doesn’t mean we don’t have any Division I football players, we do. But do we have the depth that everybody else has because they’ve been recruiting for a while and have 85 scholarships and D-1 players? I would think that will probably be the biggest issue, depth, especially on the offensive and defensive lines.”

What about this season’s schedule? “The most difficult thing is playing 13 games in 14 weeks for us and playing pretty much all Division I opponents,” Jones said. “Whereas in past years we’ve played seven, 10 and 10 (games per season), we had some off weeks and some time to get ready for games. You’re going to get your three or four days of practice and that’s going to be it, then you’re going to have to move on to your next game.”

Gone is offensive coordinator Greg Gregory and in is Robert Matthews brining the spread to South Alabama. Matthews, who learned the spread at Oklahoma State and Southern Miss, will bring a completely different attitude to the offensive side of the ball. The offense will run as quickly as possible with a no-huddle tempo that is designed to keep the defense off guard and guessing what is coming next. Plus it is designed to take advantage of the depth South Alabama has at the skill positions.

The offensive line is where the biggest unknown is located coming into this season. Gone are three starters from the previous two seasons. However back is senior Trey Clark and sophomore Melvin Meggs. In steps Drew Dearman, Chris May and Shaun Artz. Also a second string, Ucambre Williams and possibly Kentucky transfer James Elliott if he receives a hardship waiver from the NCAA. But this is the biggest offensive line the Jaguars have had in it’s short history.

Behind the line, there is plenty of talent on the roster. C.J. Bennett returns as the starter with Virginia transfer Ross Metheny as his backup and redshirt freshman Trey Fetner as the third quarterback. The South Alabama backfield is also stocked with talent. Back are Demetre Baker, Kendall Houston and Ellis Hill from last season along with Brandon Ross returning from a knee injury and redshirt freshman Terrance Timmons among others ready to contribute. At wide receiver back are Jereme Jones, Bryant Lavender, T.J. Glover, Corey Besteda and Tyrome Bivins with true freshman Cameron Broadnax who showed plenty of skill in preseason camp. With two tight ends graduating, Greg Hollinger moved over from wide receiver joining JuCo transfer Wes Saxton to fill their positions.

The defense is arguably the strength of the team. Led by Jake Johnson, the linebackers are the heart of the defense, with Clifton Crews, Enrique Williams, Maleki Harris, Bryson James, Ben Giles and Cordivido Grice to help him out.

The defensive front will need to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks than in past seasons. Returning ends Anthony Taylor, Romelle Jones, Alex Page and Will Thompson will be joined by JuCo transfer Pat Moore to help towards that goal. At nose and tackle positions they return Randon Carnathan and Andy Dalgleish, who lead the group last season, with help from Montavious Williams, Rodney Thomas and Shane Doty (who moved from offensive line).

In the secondary, Alabama transfer B.J. Scott has stepped up as a leader. The staff focused their recruiting efforts to find more help there too. Darrius Morrow and Tyrell Pearson both come in and are expected to start. Alonzo Long will suit up next to Scott at free safety. Gabe Loper should get playing time as he is the returning secondary player with the most interceptions last season.

Michel Chapuseaux takes over the placekicking duties with Scott Garber also returning to handle punts.

“We want to be competitive. We want to win every game that we play,” head coach Joey Jones said. “That’s our goal. Now, is that going to be tough to do? Sure. I understand that it will be. The bottom line is I don’t want to cut our kids short in what we’re doing. We’re going to prepare and we’re going to go out there and prepare to win. But we also know there’s a difficult schedule ahead of us and we’ve got to step up each week. I think that our kids probably will play with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder this year. Bottom line, every week that we play we’ve got to prove something. Anybody that we beat will be a big deal. We’re representing a lot of people, not just our football program but the university.”

The schedule will be tough. After UTSA and Nicholls State, the Jags travel to N.C. State again and Mississippi State before returning home for their first-ever Sun Belt Conference game against Troy. Troy, whom most expect will quickly develop into one of the leagues best rivalries, will mark the first part of the season. After their one and only off week, the Jags then visit the SBC defending champion Arkansas State. Then the downhill stretch of FAU (home), ULM (away), FIU (home), North Texas (away), MTSU (home), ULL (away) and their “bowl game” of the season at Hawaii.

If you only count wins and losses as the measuring stick for a season, it could be a difficult season. But if you expand your criteria for this team that will be completing it’s two year FBS transition at the conclusion of this season, you may be surprised.

Jags Complete Third Practice Of Preseason Camp Saturday

August 4, 2012 · Filed Under Football · Comment 

Head Coach Joey Jones talking with wide receiver Carr Tigner during preseason practice.

South Alabama got started early on Saturday morning to beat the rain chances and completed their full practice schedule for the day. It was overcast most of the morning, but the humidity made it pretty warm. The hydration staff roamed all morning making sure the players were well hydrated to help prevent players from overheating and cramping.

The Jags practiced for almost two-and-a-half hours on Saturday in shells (helmets and shoulder pads) with the offense focusing on inside running plays. In all, the offense ran over 100 plays against the defense working on the inside run, 7 on 7 skeleton passing and full-team drills.

The first half of practice focused on individual drills and fundamentals. The quarterbacks worked with the running backs and receivers in 10 minute periods while the offensive line worked with Coach Matthews. Additionally, the receivers and defensive backs would work one-on-one on while other personnel worked on inside drills.

The defensive linemen and outside linebackers worked on the sleds early in the practice. The secondary and inside linebackers did drills with Coach Clark, the defensive coordinator, while also going through various formations before going against the offense.

During skeleton drills, C.J. Bennett started with back-to-back completions to Jereme Jones and Bryant Lavender. Transfer quarterback Ross Metheny hit Jared Palmer in the back corner of the end zone for a touchdown later in the drill. Tyrell Pearson deflected a pass as well as picking off a pass that was deflected by lineback Jake Johnson. Darrius Morrow also broke up a pass during the drill.

Bryant Lavender added three receptions during the final team drills of the day. Corey Besteda added a few catches during the day as well. One fully extended catch and a Tyrone Prothro-like near catch along the sideline, however it appeared that he could not come down with it in the end.

In the first practice, there were four or five players who obviously cramped up. After the practice, the staff made sure to remind them to eat plenty of food and, particularly protein and drink lots of gatorade. It was obvious today that the staff helped the players to correct those problems from the first day.

Coach Jones made note in the post-practice talk that he is seeing the benefits from the offseason strength and conditioning workout regimen. The benefits are not only physical, but mental and in leadership roles.

“We’ve got more leadership on this football team,” Head coach Joey Jones said. “What I am hearing is guys leading others, which hasn’t happened as much in the past. That’s going to make things better as we go through this football season.”

“I was happy with the effort, they came out ready to go and their minds were on it,” he said. “Obviously we have some things that need to be sharpened up, but this was really just our second day of practice. We have a way to go, but I was real proud of the effort.”

“We wanted to concentrate on running the football and stopping the run when you put shoulder pads on for the first time,” Coach Jones further explained. “The inside drill went really well, I thought the defense got after it while the offense hit a few plays. It was good to see the intensity. I’m not worried about results right now, I’m concerned with the process. It’s not going to be perfect now, we know that, but if we continue to work on the process we’ll have a chance to be good later on.”

There were times when the offense looked flat later in practice. But that really is to be expected at this time. Coming into preseason camp, the quarterbacks and receiver tend to have an edge but the defense will typically pick up quickly and surpass the offense. Which I believe explains today. Also, this is the third day of intense workouts in the humid weather, that much intense work will take something out of you this early in camp.

On the injury front, Brandon Ross was dressed out but did not participate in contact drills. However he did hold pads for certain drills. Qudarius Ford iced up his knee late in practice. Will Thompson had an occasional limp. Eddy Cabrera got winded late in the conditioning drills.

In recruiting news, Alabama commit Darius Paige appeared at practice today. Paige, a 6’3″ 275-pound defensive tackle from Pensacola, Florida observed practice with Assistant Athletic Directory Haven Fields. Paige, who committed to the Crimson Tide back in May, has been offered by a number of schools including: Arkansas State, Clemson, FIU, Florida State, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, Marshall, Mississippi State, Tennessee and South Alabama.

The Jags will have Sunday off before returning to the practice field on Monday morning at 7:15am.