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.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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