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.”

Jaguars Travel To Troy And Stun The Trojans 19-8

October 14, 2017 · Filed Under Battle For The Belt, Football · Comment 

Head coach Joey Jones lifts the ‘Battle for the Belt’ championship belt for the third time in the last four years. | Photo Credit: Brad Puckett usajaguars.com

South Alabama went to Troy Wednesday night on a mission, and they accomplished their mission in commanding fashion with a 19-8 win to return the rivalry belt to Mobile.

The Jaguars went into the game a 16.5 point underdog with only the die hard of Jaguar fan base thinking they even had a shot to win the game. If you listened to online message boards, it was going to be a blowout and the head coach would need to be fired on the sidelines after the game and should pull a Southern Cal by letting the coach find his own way home.

But none of that came to pass, instead the defense and set the tone for the game. Six pass breakups, seven tackles for loss, two sacks, three turnovers on downs, three fumble recoveries and an interception.

That’s textbook definition of what defensive coordinator Kane Wommack calls ‘Swarm D’.

Head coach Joey Jones and his staff put together a great game plan and the players executed well. The offense struggled some in the first half outside of their one touchdown drive.

The offense came out in the second half with a commanding drive to extend their lead while converting over half of the third-downs they faced in the second half.

The entire team was spurred on by a large contingent of South Alabama fans who made the trip for the game. They were loud, proud, and full of energy. They were another textbook example of what the Jaguars need at home week-in and week-out.

The Jags first score was set up by a 57 yard punt by Corliss Waitman when Carlos Robinson forced Marcus Jones to cough up the ball which Collier Smith recovered at the Troy 46. Starting quarterback Cole Garvin connected with Tra Minter on a screen pass for 37 yards to set eventually set up Xavier Johnson to cap off the drive with a one yard leap into the end zone, giving USA a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.

Waitman would again be huge for the Jags. He booted away a 54 yard punt to the Troy 4 yard line, but a block in the back would put the line of scrimmage at the 2 yard line. On 2nd and 11, Troy’s star running back Jordan Chunn could be bottled up and taken down for a safety extending the Jaguars lead to 9-0. Which would be the score at halftime.

The Jaguars offense came out early in the second half, led by Dallas Davis off the bench, with intentions of making a statement. They were 0-for-7 on 3rd down conversions in the first half, but converted all three of their first possession of the second half. Two of them were pass completions to Sam Harris and the other was a touchdown pass over the middle to Malik Stanley to cap off an 11 play, 64 yard drive to go up 16-0.

“Cole struggled a little bit and I felt like I needed to get Dallas in the game,” Jaguar head coach Joey Jones said after the game. “He directed us down the field for a score. He played a good half.”

Gavin Patterson would add a career long 47-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to give South Alabama a 19-0 lead and sent the Trojan faithful to the exits.

After forcing a three and out, the Jaguars started at their own 43. On 2nd and 6, Davis connected with Minter for a 49 yard gain on another screen pass. Facing 4th and goal at the 4, the Jaguar coaching staff pulled out a trick play attempting to put another dagger in the Trojans, but the defense snuffed it and sacked Davis for a 15 yard loss on an intentional grounding call when he tried the fling the ball away.

This breathed some life back into the Trojans, who promptly put together their best drive of the game going 81 yards in 9 plays for their only score of the game to make it 19-8 after they converted the two-point conversion.

Troy attempted an on-sides kick, which hit and bounced off of a Jaguar but was recovered by David Gardner at the Troy 48. But three plays late, on 4th and 1, Denzel Foster was dropped for a loss of two yards giving Troy great field position with 4:30 left in the game.

The Jaguar defense bent but did not break. The secondary, which has been ravaged by injuries, helped force three-consecutive incomplete passes from the Jaguar 13 yard line. Needing two scores, Trojan head coach Neal Brown opted to attempt a 30 yard field goal by Evan Legassey, which he missed wide left, just like he did a 27-yard attempt in the first half.

From there, the Jags kept the ball on the ground and ran the clock out for the win.

The USA offense ended the game with 224 yards of total offense, only 48 of them on the ground with the other 176 yards coming through the air. Troy gained 299 yards, only 30 of them through the air.

Cole Garvin started the game for USA and went 4-of-10 for 56 yards and an interception. Dallas Davis came in late in the first half and went 7-of-10 for 120 yards and a touchdown.

Malik Stanley led the Jaguar receivers with four catches for 53 yards an the lone touchdown. Tra Minter caught three passes for 83 yards setting up both touchdowns. Sam Harris had two catches for 25 yards, both were to convert 3rd downs. Foster and Jahmmir Taylor both caught a pass also.

Denzel Foster was the Jaguars leading rusher with 30 yards on nine carries. Minter added 21 yards on 12 carries. Deonta Moore had 10 yards on six carries. Xavier Johnson, who left the game in the first half with a sprained ankle, had 4 yards on seven carries with the Jaguars lone rushing touchdown.

Troy’s star running back Jordan Chunn left the game early with an injury finished with 28 yards on 10 carries. Josh Anderson added 10 yards on three carries and Henderson had 9 yards on two carries.

Brandon Silvers went 24-of-46 for 263 yards and an interception. Kaleb Barker completed his only pass attempt for 6 yards. Emanual Thompson led the Trojans with six catches for 67 yards. Eight other receivers caught passes as well.

“I know we’ve got a good football team,” head coach Joey Jones said after the game. “I never doubted them, I love them. We know we have a bunch of conference games coming up and we are going to get after our preparation for the game next week with ULM, but right now we are going to enjoy this one. I’s a huge win for our program and puts us with one more win in the conference. That’s our goal to win the [Sun Belt] Conference championship and it’s still out there for us.

“It’s a huge, huge win for our program. That’s three out of the last four we’ve beaten these guys, and two out of three with the Belt. I’m so proud of the way our guys played. They fought their guts out tonight. It was a joy to watch.”

“They outcoached us,” Troy head coach Neal Brown said in his postgame press conference. “Our guys were not ready to play and that’s on me; that’s disappointing. We didn’t take advantage of a great opportunity. It’s an extremely disappointing evening.”

“The challenge of this defense has been, can we finish a game?,” USA defensive coordinator Kane Wommack said. “I think when you play the way that we did in the second half, to take the momentum from the get-go, that was the difference.”

“This win is huge for us,” said quarterback Dallas Davis. “We came in 1-4, which I don’t even like saying that record, and Troy is a good team; they beat LSU. We practiced hard all week and it’s a big rivalry game for us, so we knew we had to bring it, and we did both offensively and defensively.”

“I just wanted to make sure that I did my job and make sure there wasn’t a drop from his type of performance to mine,” said defensive back Khalil McDonald, who started in place of Malcolm Buggs when he was unable to play. “I did my job and played my heart out and wanted to do it for the team.”

“We had been talking about this game all week,” said Jeremy Reaves when talking about what this win means to the seniors on the team. “This win wasn’t only for us, but also for recruiting and the years to come for our program. Getting this win benefits me a lot [personally] because I get to say that I was able to get another win at Troy; I’m 2-0 here. We’ve been through so much adversity and we dedicated this season to turning the program around. To be able to come out on top in this big game is huge.”

South Alabama will have another long week to prepare for their next game. The Jags will return home to host Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday, October 21 for their annual homecoming game. Kickoff is scheduled for 4pm at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.