Reflecting Back On Saturday’s Game

September 9, 2009 · Filed Under Commentary, Football · Comment 

The Jaguars were undersized in comparison to Hargrave Academy, but matched up well and won the game. – Photo by Doug Roberts.

Saturday’s game is just now sinking in for many people in the Mobile area. Unfortunately several people had the impression that the Jaguars would be pushovers in their first season and would be lucky to win any. Or at least that is the impression that many of the uninformed masses gave.

But now that the Jags have won their first game against a team with such talent as Hargrave Academy, more people are getting excited about Jaguar football, which is great for the program and for Mobile area sports. This is exactly what the school needed, to energize the fan base in Mobile that is historically known to be a bit lethargic.

As for the game itself, the game plan worked pretty well. Coach Jones and Coach Gregory used the running game to play some smash mouth football. This took alot of pressure off of freshman quarterback Myles Gibbon. However it was still obvious at times that he was nervous on several pass attempts, but still played very well.

The defense was very good in the first half at shutting down the Tiger offense. In their seven possessions in the first half, the defense forced two interceptions, a fumble and four punts. The second half was a little different, they gave up two touchdowns in Hargrave’s first two drives but forced an interception and turnover on downs to end the game and preserve the victory.

Another thing that was quite obvious was the staff’s lack of confidence in their kicker. Instead of attempting a long field goal, they decided to go for it on fourth down which ended up turning the ball over on downs. Then again with time running down in the first half and already leading 13-0, the coaching staff could have attempted a field goal to extend their lead to 16-0 but instead they let Nick Owen run the offense and eventually turn the ball over on downs when time expired.

Probably the most biggest game changer was penalty yards, USA was only flagged four times for 30 yards while Hargrave racked up 15 penalties for a whopping 135 yards.

The Jags are going to build on their success in this game. With a game under Gibbon’s belt and with the offensive line passing the test, they can start to expand the playbook some to include more passing during game situations. On defense, they just need to continue what they have been doing already. The defensive line and linebackers did a great job. The secondary looked good at times but they still need some work.

Special teams will get more work in the next two weeks. They gave up more return yards than Coach Jones wanted to see. Plus the kickers need to work on field goals, particularly mentioned was longer field goals of around 38-42 yards.

With the next game scheduled for September 26th, this gives Coach Jones and his staff more time to work the second and third stringers before Army Prep. Which is a luxury most teams do not have, but with so many young players this will help develop depth.

Jaguars Win Impressively In Schools First-Ever Game

September 6, 2009 · Filed Under Football · Comment 

#6 Courtney Smith scores the first touchdown in South Alabama football history on a 60-yard reception late in the first quarter against Hargrave Academy. – Photo courtesy of Doug Roberts.

The Jags came out to play in their historic first game. Some would just be content to have glimpses of good play on such a historic day. The first set of recruits stepped on campus two months ago while transfers and walk-ons got here in January. It might have been asking a bit much for a team to come together without any returning leadership to play against a team such a Hargrave and dominate from the first snap. But Coach Jones, his staff and team had other plans.

The day was already exciting enough, but when news that Chris Fowler of ESPN College Gameday mentioned South Alabama’s first game, it sent the excitement and celebration even higher. While doing the run down of important stories in the opening weekend of college football, he said “We want to salute a couple of programs playing their very first game today, Old Dominion and South Alabama.” But this wasn’t the highpoint of the day by far. The true high point of celebration came later.

The Jaguars took a little stroll, the Jaguar Prowl, from their bus to the stadium through the student tailgating section, to much ovation from fans. Then a group of musicians from the marching band made the rounds in the parking lot at the stadium, entertaining all of the tailgating fans along their way.

Later before kickoff, the band took the field for thier pregame show where, again to much ovation, spelled out the script USA logo that was recognized immediately by most people in the stands. Once they finished their play, they paused for the national anthem and the U.S. Coast Guard flyover. They then took their place near the northeast corner awaiting the Jaguars entrance to the field.

President Gordon Moulton stood at midfield on the nice new Jaguar logo and thanked the students, the fans and the board of trustees. The team captains from both sides approached midfield for the coin toss which Hargrave won and elected to receive. So the choice of end zones to defend was left for the Jaguars to decide. It did not take long for them to decide to defend the south end zone either.

The band then began playing the fight song as the cheerleaders lead the team out onto the field with flags waving. As the Jaguars went to the sidelines, the cheerleaders remained spread out across the field with two Jaguar logos and flags for U S and A prouding waving them to the stadium.

The Jaguars finally got to line up for the opening kickoff to a cheering crowd and another loud cheer when they tackled the returner quickly. The Jaguar defense would hold Hargrave and force them to punt early. On a bad snap, the punter mishandled the ball allowing the Jaguar defense to close in and seemingly partially block the punt, which drew another loud cheer from the crowd. However, the cheer would turn to jeers when the officials announced USA was being penalized for roughing the kicker.

The Jaguar defense set the tone by holding Hargrave scoreless in the first half and forcing turnovers in the Tigers’ first two possessions. The Jags came close to scoring on a drive about midway through the first quarter, however Santuan McGee fumbled at the two yard line after a 22 yard run, turning the ball over.

With only seconds remaining in the first quarter, the Jaguars had the ball at their own 40 yard line. Gibbon dropped back and found an open Courtney Smith running a go route for a 60 yard touchdown on the left sideline for the first points for the Jaguars.

Shortly after the first score, Brandon Ross capped off a five play 24 yard possession with a one yard run with 12 minutes left in the opening half to extend the Jaguar lead to 13-0. Another promising drive with about five minutes left in the first half was cut short by an interception of Gibbons pass at the goal line.

At the end of the first half, the Jaguars had another opportunity to put points on the board but without any time outs, quarterback Nick Owen could not stop the clock to allow a field goal attempt as time expired.

Early in the second half, the Jags extended their lead further when Myles Gibbon scored on an 8 yard run. With the score at 20-0, observers were excited yet amazed at how well the Jaguars were playing.

However the shutout would not last as Hargrave finally found the endzone on a 16-yard run. The extra point was blocked by the Jaguars though to make the score 20-6. The Jaguars would respond with a 25 yard field goal by Chapuseaux with 2:39 left in the third quarter to make the score 23-6. The Tigers scored another touchdown on a 35 yard reception to cut the lead to ten points, 23-13.

However, the Jags would seal the game with a hard nosed Brandon Ross run for 22 yards, stretching out at the goal line for the touchdown, with 4:19 remaining in the game to reach the final score of South Alabama 30 – Hargrave 13.

But the true celebration came after the clock hit all zeroes, after the two teams shook hands. It happened when the players went into the stands to celebrate with the Jaguar fans with the band playing ‘Jaguar Pride’ and the Alma Mater.

Gibbon finished the game going 7-for-13 for 126 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Nick Owens went 4-for-4 for 38 yards. Ross had 19 attempts for 139 yards and two touchdowns. McGee had nine carries for 58 yards with one lost fumble. Courtney Smith had five catches for 105 yards with 60 of them coming on the schools first touchdown.

Hargrave Academy’s leading rusher, Tahron Goods rushed seven times for 46 yards and a touchdown. Evan Ingram carried 9 times for 43 yards. Evan Ingram went 17-for27 with two interceptions and a touchdown. Dlapo Macarthy went 4-for-7 with an interception as well. Sean Farr caught nine passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.

In total, the Jaguars had 29 rushes for 299 yards and went 11-for-17 passing for 164 yards with one touchdown and one interception. While the Tigers ran 27 times for 133 yards and 21-for-34 for 238 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.

Justin Dunn lead the team with eight tackles followed by Charlie Higgenbotham and Zach Brownell both with seven.

Other notable stats: Punter Scott Garber punted once for 47 yards and pinned the Tigers near their own 10 yardline. Erling Riis returned 3 punts for 44 yards, including a 39 yard return to set up a Jaguar touchdown.

Coach Jones spoke about the game afterwords, “We challenged the kids this morning about making this a day to remember, and they did that,” he said. “Our kids played extremely hard, our staff coached extremely hard, and we would not have had that success today had the staff not done what they did and the players bought into the program. It’s as simple as that. The players did a great job today, and I’m really proud of them. We certainly have some things we can work on, but we can go back and correct those things. I’m very proud of them coming out – a bunch of new guys and a new team – and doing what they did today.”

Defensive coordinator Bill Clark spoke about the Jaguar defense, “We were tickled to death in the first half. It was one of those deals where you come in at halftime and you’re almost scared that the other shoe is going to drop because you know they’re going to make adjustments. To come out and really not know what they were going to do – we had a base idea that they had a lot of two-back runs in the first game – our guys really hounded them, and we had a bunch of takeaways. We came in at halftime really excited, and we told our guys it was zero to zero. We were disappointed in the second half because our goal is a shutout, and we know that’s a big goal. We know we’ve got some things to work on because we want to be really stingy, but there were a lot of good things tonight.”

Also Hargrave coach Robert Prunty spoke well of South Alabama’s effort, “The thing with our kids is that they enjoyed it and South Alabama is a class act. You can tell by how they’re putting their facilities in order – we were impressed with it. Coach Jones has this program in the right direction. We’ve played against other JV programs and you can tell that what coach Jones has going on here is a good thing. Their kids played hard and you can tell they’ve been in the weight room. It was a great performance by South Alabama.”

The game was truly one of historic value. South Alabama went all out to make sure it was just that. This was a storybook beginning to what should be a long and successful novel.

Jags End Week With A Limited Contact Situational Scrimmage

August 29, 2009 · Filed Under Football · Comment 

The Jaguars lining up for a field goal attempt in Friday’s practice.

South Alabama’s final preseason scrimmage saw limited contact and the final hour focused primarily on situational drills. After a very physical four weeks, the Jaguar staff decided to cut the workout short, only going four an hour and a half, and not as physical because oh how physical they have been all summer.

Another reason is that the Jags have a number of players that are questionable going into Monday. “We’ve got a lot of kids banged up,” said Jones “We’ve got some hamstrings we don’t know about and will find out Monday. Nobody is just out as far as the starters or second-teamers, but we’ve got guys that will be questionable this week and we’ll find out about them Monday.”

The Jaguars scrimmage covered almost every special teams situation from kickoff coverage, kick returns, onside kicks, punt coverage, punt returns and punting out of their own end zone. The offense then practiced on driving for game-winning scores with the time running out.

They started the timing drill in their own half of the field. The drill started on the 50 yard-line with the first team offense led by Myles Gibbon with 18 seconds to get into field goal range. After two quick crossing pattern competions to Courtney Smith to get into field goal range. They then sent in, in order, Michel Chapuseaux, Jordan Means and Lawson McGlon to attempt field goals from about 45 yards out. Both Chapuseaux and Means missed their attempts wide while McGlon made his.

The next drill started on the 40 yard-line with 3rd and long with 18 seconds to go. Brennan Sim completed a 16 yard pass to get into field goal range. Lawson McGlon came in for the field goal attempt from 41 yards, which he made.

The offense then moved to red zone drills. Facing 3rd and goal from the 10 yard-line, Gibbon threw an incomplete pass that was almost intercepted at the goal line. But on 4th down he found Corey Waldon over the middle for a touch down. McGlon added the PAT.

Next was a goal line situation on 4th down on the 2 yard-line. Gibbon handed it to Brandon Ross on a draw play, which he scored on. Nick Owens then led a situational drive starting on the 10 yard-line. After two plays, they got down to around the 2 yard-line before Ryan Scott was stopped in the backfield to end that scenerio.

Then to end the scrimmage the defense saw one play of prevent defense so the DB’s could knock down the ball. They had the offense practice one play of being backed up at their own goal line, using the quarterback to follow the linemen to give gain a couple yards. Then for the final practice play they practiced one snap of probably the coaches and fans favorite plays, the victory kneel. After the victory kneel, the players rushed the field and huddled around Coach Jones for his ending remarks.

While most of the practice was focused on game situation drills, which have not been covered frequently since camp began, they also used the practice to begin preparation for their opponent in the programs first-ever game against Hargrave Military Academy. “It was a pure situational scrimmage, but it was one that I think you need to cover mentally before the week of a game,” head coach Joey Jones said. “Things like punting out of the end zone, taking a knee at the end of a game, prevent defense – all those odd situations you don’t work on as much, we saw those this week and will work on them again next week so that if they come up in a game we’re ready for those situations. We did a little bit of work against the scout team today. We tried to sneak a little of that in here the last couple of days, but Monday will be devoted to that.”

“We tried to put them to as close to a game situation as we could on the sideline and with how we warmed up,” Coach Jones continued. “I kind of had to get on them early, but we really focused after that. Once that happened, they really paid attention – I kept checking the sideline to make sure their eyes were on the field. We want to look good warming up, and we want to be organized on the sideline. We’ll continue working on that next week so we’ll be as prepared as we can be when we get out there for a real game.”

Coach Jones said he was very pleased with how his players have performed during preseason camp. “It’s been a great preseason camp,” he commented, “but we’re just ready to go out to Ladd Stadium and have a great time. I think that we are a good bit ahead of where I thought we would be originally. The staff has done such a good job installing the offense, defense and special teams in a way that the players could learn.”

“I’m real pleased with how the coaches have put a good amount of the game plan in, but not too much,” Jones continued. “I’m also happy with how the kids have responded to that – they’ve learned, and they’ve paid attention. They really have been a focused group. Plus, looking back a year and a half ago, the athletes on the field are much better than what I thought they would be at this point.”

This weekend will mark the first time the Jaguars have not been on the field for two consecutive days since before preseason practice started on August 4th. But the Jaguars will be back on the field on Monday for game week preparation for Hargrave. “I’m ready for game week to get here, and I think the kids are too,” Jones commented. “As coaches we like practices, but we’re a little different from the players. We are ready to prepare for an opponent, obviously beginning Monday we will be getting ready every day and every minute for Hargrave Academy.”

T-Minus 7 days until kickoff of the University of South Alabama’s inaugural season of football. GO JAGS!!