More New Firsts In Jaguar Program History Against ASU

October 12, 2012 · Filed Under Football · 2 Comments 

The Jaguars will have yet another new first in the program’s history on Saturday. When the Red Wolves and the Jaguars kick off at 6pm on Saturday in Jonesboro, it will be South Alabama’s first conference game on the road.

But the Jaguars will be looking for another first too. They will be trying to pick up their first Sun Belt Conference victory while trying to avoid another first, the first time the program has lost four-consecutive games. The three game losing streak is already a first for the program.

Arkansas State (3-3, 1-1 SBC) will be a tough test for the Jags (1-4, 0-1 SBC) who is 0-2 on the road so far this season. The Red Wolves run a quick-paced, no-huddle spread offense that first year head coach Gus Malzahn has lots of input into.

“Obviously, they’re very difficult to prepare for on both sides of the ball,” head coach Joey Jones said. “Offensively, they do a thousand different things and do a great job with their scheme and make you defend everything on the field. Thank goodness we’ve had a few extra days to prepare for that. Defensively, they’re a very sound football team. They’re very athletic with a lot of juniors and seniors on both sides of the football. They’re a very good football team.”

“I think that if you look at them they’ve got a great leader in their quarterback (Ryan Aplin),” Jones continued. “He was the player of the year in the conference last year and deservedly so. He runs the team. You can tell he’s a great leader. They have several seniors but he’s the guy where it all starts.”

“They’re very good defensively. They did a very good job against FIU the other night and they’ve got good people on defense. John Thompson is the defensive coordinator and he does a great job. We faced him when he was at Georgia State and he’s been at a lot of places, a very experienced coordinator. He understands how to run a defense so you can tell they’re very well-coached. They are very good on defense. They don’t get the publicity that they do on offense, but the bottom line is they’re very good.”

ASU’s quarterback Ryan Aplin has thrown for 1,388 yards and eight touchdowns so far on the season with only two interceptions. Their offense is ranked 3rd in total offense, first in rushing offense, 4th in scoring offense and 8th in passing offense. But they are tops in the conference in passing efficiency.

The Jaguar defense has played extremely well this season, but the same cannot be said for the offense. They hope sidelining the two-quarterback system they employed in the first five games of the season will give them the spark they need to get going. Last week Coach Jones announced that Ross Metheny would be the starter for the game and would take the majority of the snaps in practice leading up to the game.

Third down conversions and red zone play have been two sore subjects for the offensive unit. They are only converting 28 percent of their third-down attempts (20-of-72) and have only scored on 10-of-15 trips into the red zone, six of those 10 being touchdowns.

“We have not put a complete game together,” Jones said. “We’ve had too many three-and-outs, and that’s not really any one person’s fault. We have a young offense. We started the season with two freshmen and five sophomores on the offensive unit. We have to get better, but it isn’t easy to get better when you’re playing the teams we are playing.”

“We’re a better team than we were last year, but we’re playing much better competition right now and it just isn’t showing. We have to be able to stick the ball into the end zone. Defense and special teams are playing good enough to win, so if we can get that part going on offense then we’re going to get this thing rolling. But we have to get out there and get it done.”

The players are working hard and have showed signs of improvement, but that needs to translate into play on the field on gameday. They have to play smart football, protect the ball and start moving the ball more consistently and converting third downs.

It’s not “If” they can do it, but when they start doing it, that they will have chances to win games. Experience does not come lightly and this is still a very young team in terms of Division I play.