Jags Travel To Face Georgia State On Thursday In Nationally Televised Game

October 25, 2017 · Filed Under Football, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 

South Alabama (3-4, 2-1 SBC) and Georgia State (3-3, 2-1 SBC) both have short preparation times to get ready for their Thursday night game in Atlanta.

The Jags come into the game with back-to-back wins and look to even their overall record for the season while Georgia State looks go back over .500 on the season after their three-game win streak was broken at home by Troy on Saturday by a score of 34-10.

USA had their best offensive performance of the season with 549 yards of total offense and an average of 8.1 yards per play. Xavier Johnson broke the career rushing record as he rushed for 99 yards to help the team rush for 242 yards.

Possibly more importantly, the Jags converted 7-of-12 3rd down attempts.

It wasn’t only the offense who had a big game. Jeremy Reaves tied for top spot on the career interception list, returned a fumble 92 yards to set up the offense for a touchdown, and had eight tackles in the game to earn Sun Belt Conference Co-Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Georgia State has wins over Louisiana-Monroe (3-4), Coastal Carolina (1-6), and Charlotte (1-7) this season. Their losses were to Tennessee State (3-4 FCS), Penn State and Troy.

This is head coach Shawn Elliot’s first year at the helm, previously he was co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at South Carolina where he had served for the last seven seasons under both coach Will Muschamp and Steve Spurrier. He served as interim head coach after Spurrier retired midway through the 2015 season. Previous to South Carolina, Elliot served 13 seasons as an assistant coach at Appalachian State, including during their three-consecutive NCAA title run 2005-07 and during the Mountaineers’ historic upset at Michigan in 2007.

The Panthers offensive coordinator is Travis Trickett. He served as offensive coordinator at Florida Atlantic and Samford before joining Elliot’s staff. FAU set school records for rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in 2016.

GSU’s defensive coordinator is Nate Fugua, who came to the Panthers from FCS Wofford where he had served 12 season, the last three as defensive coordinator. Under his oversight, the defense helped the team to a 10-4 record and finished 5th in the natino in totoal defense, 6th in scoring defense, and 12th in rushing defense.

One of the notable staff members is cornerbacks coach Sam Shade. Shade, who some may remember from his time at the University of Alabama and the 1992 National Championship team, played eight years in the NFL for the Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins. Prior to joining GSU, Shade coached the last eight years at Samford by coaching cornerbacks and the last seasons also as the passing game coordinator. Samford’s defense led the nation in passing yards allowed (139.1 yards per game), and ranked seventh in pass efficiency defense in 2014. In 2015, Samford led their conference with 16 interceptions (17th in FCS). They finished either first or second in their conference in pass efficiency defense each of the last four seasons.

Georgia State is committed to running the ball. Against Troy, the Panthers ran the ball 33 times for 52 yards. In each of the previous four games the Panther ran the ball at least 40 times. They did not have much production against Charlotte (124) and Coastal Carolina (91), but ran for 224 yards against the ULM in Louisiana.

The Panthers rely on their passing game to get it done though. Against Troy they managed 335 yards through the air in the loss. In their three wins, the Panthers threw for 250 yards or more, including 446 against ULM as they rolled up 670 yards of total offense.

The Panthers offense leans on senior quarterback Conner Manning who is averaging 252.7 yards per game with seven touchdowns on the season with a 66.5% completion percentage. One of his favorite targets is Sophomore Penny Hart, who leads the Sun Belt with an average of 7.8 receptions per game (6th in FBS) and 97.8 yards per game (15th in FBS).

The Jaguar defense allowed an uncharacteristic 307 yards rushing to the Warhawks. The Panthers are going to run the ball, as shown by their rushing attempts in previous games. GSU may not run for lots of yards, but they attempt it enough that you have to play it honest which lets them throw the ball. Which, they are pretty good at averaging 269.7 yards per game. But they also have six interceptions and have had eight fumbles, losing five of them. They also convert 57% of their 3rd down attempts. They also convert 61% of their red-zone trips into points, 44% of them into touchdowns.

What do the Jags need to do to win:

The Jags defense will have to play solid, both against the run and the pass to win. Hopefully last Saturday’s run defense is just an anomaly based on the ULM match-up. But even so, the defense held the Warhawks to 23 points, which was a little over half what they averaged coming into the game. The secondary, led by Reaves, are starting to gel more and play more mature as well.

Offensively, the Jags are playing better. Head coach Joey Jones and offensive coordinator Richard Owens have them taking what the defense will give them, playing patiently and reducing negative plays which puts you in position to convert 3rd downs easier and move the ball. If they continue building on that again this week, then they will have a good chance to notch their third win in a row.

Don’t come out flat against Georgia State. The Panthers and Jaguars have a fairly spirited rivalry that has grown since both started football within a few years of each other. Last year the Jags eeked out a 13-10 win for homecoming, but the Panthers stunned the Jags in Atlanta in 2015 by a score of 24-10. They would love nothing more than to rain on the Jaguar parade again, especially to break a two-game win streak and make up for their loss to Troy last week. But they also need to keep their wits about them. Don’t let the Panthers bait them into needless penalties. Just go out and play their assignment, play to win each and every play, and play fundamentally sound, something they’ve been able to do lately.

South Alabama and Georgia State will kick off in Atlanta at the new Georgia State Stadium on the grounds of the former home of the Atlanta Braves, Turner Field. For the Tennessee State game, the Panthers played in front of an announced sell-out crowd of 24,333, however that does not look like actual capacity of the stadium but more of a self-limited number.

The game is scheduled for a 6:30PM Central kickoff and will be aired on ESPNU nationally. Radio in the Mobile area will start their coverage at 4:30pm on 99.5FM The Jag and 95.1 FM in the Mobile area.