CFN Take: South Alabama Loses Late To Navy
2013 South Alabama Jaguars - Head Coach: Joey Jones
Nov. 28 Navy 42, at South Alabama 40
Aug. 30 OPEN DATE
Sep. 6 at Kent State W 23-13
Sep. 13 Miss State L 35-3
Sep. 20 Georgia Southern L 28-6
Sep. 27 at Idaho W 34-10
Oct. 4 at Appalachian St W 47-21
Oct. 11 OPEN DATE
Oct. 18 Georgia State W 30-27
Oct. 25 Troy W 27-13
Nov. 1 at Louisiana-Laf L 19-9
Nov. 8 at Arkansas State L 45-10
Nov. 15 Texas State W 24-20
Nov. 22 at So Carolina L 37-12
Nov. 28 Navy L 42-40
And You Care Because … Down 15 with just over eight minutes to play, South Alabama rallied on a 48-yard Brandon Bridge touchdown pass to Shavarez Smith with just over five minutes to play, and came up with a ten-yard touchdown pass to Jereme Jones with 39 seconds to play to pull within two, but the two-point conversion attempt failed after two penalties. The Jaguars had a 17-7 lead in the first quarter helped by Smith’s three-yard touchdown grab, but Navy roared back with the first of Keenan Reynolds’ three touchdown runs scoring on a 67-yard dash and with two one-yard runs, taking the lead for good midway through the fourth on the final Reynolds score. The South Alabama D held late, and the offense stepped up until the two-point conversion misfire.
What Else? Navy RB Keenan Reynolds ran ten times for 119 yards and three scores and completed 1-of-4 passes for 42 yards
- South Alabama RB Terrance Timmons ran 15 times for 124
- Navy RB Noah Copeland ran 17 times for 112 yards and two scores
- Third down conversions: South Alabama 10-of-18 – Navy 4-of-10
Game Rating: A-
Nov. 22 at South Carolina 37, South Alabama 12
And You Care Because … South Carolina’s Skai Moore and Brison Williams each came up with two interceptions – each team turned it over five times - with Williams returning one of the picks 21 yards for a touchdown to overcome a rocky overall game to get to six wins. It wasn’t a perfect day for the South Carolina offense, but the defense held South Alabama to four Aleem Sunanon field goals from 20, 29, 20 and 31 yards out. Dylan Thompson found Nick Jones for a 29-yard touchdown, and caught a seven-yard scoring pass, but the Gamecocks had to rely on Elliott Frye field goals from 42, 47 and 24 yards out to make up for an offense that couldn’t seem to stop fumbling.
What Else? South Carolina QB Dylan Thompson completed 10-of-17 passes for 237 yards and a score with a pick
- South Alabama QB Brandon Bridge completed 2-of-11 passes for 19 yards, Hunter Vaughn completed 15-of-23 passes for 151 yards and four picks
- Time of possession: South Alabama 35:48 – South Carolina 24:12
- Each team came up with 20 first downs and five turnovers
Game Rating: C-
Nov. 15 at South Alabama 24, Texas State 20
And You Care Because … South Alabama got a Hunter Vaughn 28-yard touchdown catch and an eight-yard scoring throw to Danny Woodson, to go along with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Timmons for the 24-17 lead, but the D had to come up with a stop as Tyler Jones' final pass attempt from the four-yard line fell incomplete in the end zone. Texas State started out up 10-0 on with a one-yard Robert Lowe run and the first of two Will Johnson field goals, and was up 17-7 late in the first half on a 46-yard Lawrence Wright catch. USA scored 17 straight points before TXST got back on the board with Johnson’s second field goal.
What Else? South Alabama QB Hunter Vaughn completed 20-of-28 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown with a pick, ran 12 times for 15 yards, and caught a 28-yard touchdown pass
- Texas State QB Tyler Jones completed 25-of-42 passes for 300 yards and a touchdown
- Turnovers: South Alabama 4 – Texas State 0
- Total yards: Texas State 406 – South Alabama 384
Game Rating: B+
Nov. 8 at Arkansas State 45, South Alabama 10
And You Care Because … Up 7-3 after the first quarter, Arkansas State cranked out 38 straight points as Fredi Knighten threw two touchdown passes and ran for a score, and Artez Brown returned an interception 58 yards for a touchdown in the blowout. South Alabama only managed a first quarter field goal before finally getting into the end zone on a one-yard Berron Tyson touchdown run late in the fourth.
What Else? Arkansas State QB Fredi Knighten completed 17-of-32 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns, and ran 14 times for a team-leading 80 yards and a score
- South Alabama QBs combined to complete 9-of-25 passes for 90 yards and three picks
- Total yards: Arkansas State 400 – South Alabama 201
- Third down conversions: Arkansas State 10-of-19 – South Alabama 1-of-12
Game Rating: D
Nov. 1 Louisiana-Lafayette 19, South Alabama 9
And You Care Because … Down 9-3 in the first half after USA went up on a 12-yard Jereme Jones touchdown catch, it was all ULL the rest of the way with 16 unanswered points. Hunter Stover hit four field goals, but it was Elijah McGuire who finally provided a cushion on an eight-yard run with just over five minutes to play.
What Else? Louisiana-Lafayette RB Elijah McGuire ran 18 times for 116 yards and a score
- South Alabama WR Shavarez Smith caught eight passes for 116 yards
- Louisiana-Lafayette QB Terrance Broadway completed 16-of-28 passes for 216 yards, and ran 11 times for 54 yards
- Total yards; Louisiana-Lafayette 412 – South Alabama 336
Game Rating: B-
Oct. 24 at South Alabama 27, Troy 13
And You Care Because … The Jaguars took control early in a penalty-marred game with the first of two Aleem Sunanon field goals and a 45-yard Shavarez Smith touchdown catch for a 10-0 lead. Troy was able to come up with Ryan Kay field goals from 43 and 38 yards out, but it was all USA after that in the second half with Xavier Johnson ripping off a 14-yard touchdown dash and Kendall Houston ripping off a 41-yard dash for a 27-6 lead late. Troy finally got into the end zone on an eight-yard B.J. Chitty catch with one minute to play.
What Else? Penalties: Troy 10 for 100 yards – South Alabama 8 for 78 yards
- USA RB Kendall Houston ran 18 times for 178 yards and a score, and Xavier Johnson ran 15 times for 107 yards and a touchdown
- Troy QBs combined to completed 13-of-24 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown
- Total yards: USA 402 – Troy 309
Game Rating: C-
Oct. 18 at South Alabama 30, Georgia State 27
And You Care Because … South Alabama got an 18-yard touchdown catch from Danny Woodson with just over four minutes to play for a 30-27 lead, and the defense held on for the win. The Jaguars got three field goals from Aleem Sunanon and two touchdown passes and a scoring run from Brandon Bridge, but Georgia State wouldn’t go away. Nick Arbuckle threw three touchdown passes including two to Donovan Harden from 44 and five yards out, but he couldn’t engineer one final scoring drive.
What Else? South Alabama QB Brandon Bridge completed 11-of-32 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns, and ran 15 times for a team-leading 137 yards and a score
- Georgia State QB Nick Arbuckle completed 23-of-40 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns
- Georgia State WR Donovan Harden caught ten passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns
- Rushing yards: South Alabama 321 – Georgia State 90
Game Rating: B
Oct. 4 South Alabama 47, at Appalachian State 21
And You Care Because … The Jaguars roared out to a 20-0 lead highlighted by a 67-yard Shavarez Smith touchdown catch and an eight-yard Brandon Bridge run, and after ASU finally got on the board with a 20-yard Malachi Jones touchdown catch, USA answered right back with a 20-point third quarter with a 14-yard Smith touchdown catch and a 43-yard Danny Woodson scoring play. The Mountaineers came up with 14 points in the fourth quarter in garbage time.
What Else? USA QB Brandon Bridge completed 19-of-28 passes for 338 yards and three scores
- ASU QB Taylor Lamb completed 16-of-30 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns, and led the team with 78 yards on 13 carries.
- USA WR Shavarez Smith caught six passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns
- Penalties: USA 10 for 124 yards – ASU 8 for 77 yards
Game Rating: D+
Sept. 27 South Alabama 34, at Idaho 10
And You Care Because … South Alabama got up 27-0 with Brandon Bridge running for a 54-yard score and hitting Claude Garrett on a 51-yard scoring pass and getting a 59-yard interception return for a score from Montell Garner. Idaho finally got in the board in the third quarter with a 37-yard Austin Rehkow field goal and a ten-yard Joshua McCain touchdown catch, but that was it. Jay Jones put it away on an 18-yard touchdown dash.
What Else? USA QB Brandon Bridge completed 15-of-25 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown with a pick, and he ran six times for 71 yards and a touchdown
- Idaho was held to 30 yards on 33 carries
- Total yards: USA 429 – Idaho 269
- USA RB Jay Jones ran 18 times for 108 yards and a score
Game Rating: D+
Sept. 20 Georgia Southern 28, at South Alabama 6
And You Care Because … Georgia Southern ran wild with Matt Breida taking off for a 64-yard score and later coming up with a one-yard touchdown run. USA made it interesting in the second quarter on a 28-yard Shavarez Smith catch, but it was all GSU the rest of the way with Kevin Ellison putting the game out of reach on a six-yard run.
What Else? Georgia Southern RB Matt Breida ran 21 times for 187 yards and two scores
- South Alabama QB Brandon Bridge completed 13-of-34 passes for 149 yards and a score with two picks
- Georgia Southern ran for 335 yards and outgained USA 420 yards to 296
- The two teams combined to convert 6-of-25 third down chances
Game Rating: C-
Sept. 13 Mississippi State 35, at South Alabama 3
And You Care Because … Mississippi State cranked up the offense with 28 first half points and 514 yards on the way to an easy win. Dak Prescott ran for a score from 40 yards out and caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Jameon Lewis on a trick play, and Josh Robinson ran for touchdowns from two and 15 yards away. South Alabama turned it over four times and only managed a 26-yard Aleem Sunanon field goal in the second quarter.
What Else? Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott completed 13-of-21 passes for 201 yards and a score, ran 14 times for 139 yards and a touchdown, and caught one pass for a 24-yard score.
- South Alabama QB Brandon Bridge completed 21-of-39 passes for 203 yards with a pick.
- It was hardly a clean game or MSU with eight penalties and two lost fumbles, but the O outgained USA 514 yards to 345.
- Mississippi State RB Josh Robinson ran 12 times for 77 yards and two scores. The Bulldogs averaged 6.4 yards per carry.
Game Rating: D
Sept. 6 South Alabama 23, at Kent State 13
And You Care Because … South Alabama scored the first 16 points on a safety, a one-yard catch from Shavarez Smith and a one-yard Jay Jones run, but Kent State fought back with Nick Holley catching an eight-yard touchdown pass and Casey Pierce making a 44-yard scoring play to pull within three. The Jaguars put the game away with a great late drive and a 23-yard Jones scoring dash. Jones ended up running 21 times for 102 yards and two scores, but the USA D was the star keeping Kent State to 64 rushing yards and allowing Collin Reardon to hit 17-of-40 passes for 213 yards and two scores with a pick.
Game Rating: B+
Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State might be considered the stars of the Sun Belt, but South Alabama showed last year that it’s about to be something special under head coach Joey Jones.
The Jaguars went 2-11 in the first season up in the FBS world, but that 2012 campaign really wasn’t that bad and there were signs that everything was about to change. 2-11 was 2-11, but the team didn’t really play all that poorly. In the same sort of way, the 6-6 2013 team might have been even better than the final record.
There was a rough 42-14 loss to Navy – the great run defense wasn’t even close, giving up a season-high 351 yards and four touchdowns – and that was it for the bad days. No, losing to Southern Utah wasn’t okay but it was a 22-21 gaffe. USA gave Tennessee a tough time in a 31-24 loss, and lost to Troy, Texas State and Arkansas State by a combined four points, meaning that five of the six losses came by a touchdown or less and by a total of 12 points. It was a tight season all the way around with seven games decided by seven points or fewer, and now it’s time to start winning more of the close ones.
How do you win close battles? With experience and a great defense.
The Jaguars return 15 starters including eight on an effective offense that averaged 426 yards per game and six on a defense that did a great job of stuffing and stalling just about everyone buy Navy. There’s work to do on the defensive front after losing all-stars Alex Page, Romelle Jones and Pat Moore, but Jesse Kelley is a good one to work around on the nose and the back seven should be among the Sun Belt’s best led by one of the league’s top linebackers, Maleki Harris.
The defense is going to attack, and keep attacking – dominating in the backfield last season – and the spread offense should be terrific running the ball with all-star caliber blockers Ucambre Williams and Chris May the leaders of a line that gets all five starters back.
So don’t just hand the season over to one of the Sun Belt mainstays quite yet. The relative new guy is going to be even more dangerous.
What to watch for on offense: The Jaguars should own the ground game, but only if new quarterback Brandon Bridge can take off from time to time. Former quarterback Ross Metheny finished second on the team with 604 rushing yards to go along with a team-leading ten touchdowns, but Jay Jones, Cris Dinham and Kendall Houston did their part in a good running back rotation. All three are back, and Bridge is a decent runner for a 6-5, 220-pounder. The key is the line that allowed just 17 sacks and a mere 67 tackles for loss on the season. With everyone returning and with stars at tackle – Chris May on the right side and Ucambre Williams on the left – expect USA to blow past the 2,073 rushing yards it generated last year.
What to watch for on defense: Keep the pressure coming. The Jaguars technically use a 4-3 alignment with the Jack position being used like a hybrid outside linebacker defensive end, and it works. Last season they cranked out 38 sacks and 86 tackles for loss, but the top five pass rushers are gone with tackle Jerome McClain and his three sacks and do-it-all linebacker Maleki Harris needing to be the new stars who can get into the backfield. The defense came up with three sacks or more in nine games and ripped up ULM, Georgia State and Louisiana-Lafayette for a grand total of 16 sacks over the last three games – all wins.
The team will be far better if… the defense can come up with a stop in the red zone. Giving up field goals is one thing – opponents hit 16-of-20 field goals on the year against the Jaguars – but there were too many times when the D couldn’t come up with a big stop, allowing offenses to score 88% of the time they got inside the 20 with touchdowns allowed 61% of the time. When USA went 1-4 when allowing teams to score four times or more in the red zone and 5-2 when allowing teams to score three times or fewer in close range.
The Schedule: It’s all about the really big Sun Belt games against Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State, two of the best-looking teams in the conference going into the season. Unfortunately, both games are on the road, and both come back-to-back in early November as part of a run of three away games in four weeks and in the midst of a brutal section of five away games in eight dates. Georgia Southern is also going to be dangerous, but at least that’s at home, as is the tough game against Texas State. The non-conference slate is relatively challenging
- to say the least - going to Kent State to start the season, hosting Mississippi State, and closing out the regular season
at South Carolina before finishing up against Navy.
Best offensive player: Junior TE Wes Saxton. This is a good, experienced offense that should be sound, but it’ll be Saxton who’ll be the gamechanger with a new quarterback stepping in. More like a very big wide receiver than a tight end, the veteran earned all-star honors as a reliable field-stretcher and go-to guy across the middle. While he’ll be one of the team’s key weapons, the real stars could be up front with tackles Ucambre Williams and Chris May sure-thing All-Sun Belt performers.
Best defensive player: Junior LB Maleki Harris. The team’s second-leading returning tackler, he’s fast, active, great in pass coverage and great at getting into the backfield. While he’s not all that big, he’s strong and holds up well. Now he’ll have to do even more as a leader with so much turnover in the linebacking corps and in the front seven. Expect all-star honors as one of the league’s better statistical stars.
Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Brandon Bridge.
Or, potentially, USF transfer Matt Floyd. The big veteran saw a little bit of action last year and struggled throwing the ball, hitting on just 44% of his passes. Even so, he has great size and excellent mobility. He has to replace Ross Metheny, who finished second on the team with 604 rushing yards and ten touchdowns, and completed 62% of his passes in an efficient and effective year. Bridge gets to pilot a veteran offense, and he needs to be the leader and steadying factor.
The season will be a success if ... the Jaguars win seven games. With so many close losses last season, and with so much experience returning, being at least one win better is a must. It’s not necessarily going to be easy with so many tough road games – and a Sun Belt title might be out of the question with the ULL and Arkansas State battles back-to-back – but this is a good enough team to beat Kent State, Idaho, Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, Georgia State and Texas State. Win five of those six games, and come up with two other victories against teams like Troy, Navy, and in a perfect world, ULL and/or Arkansas State, and it’ll be a great year.
Key game: Sept. 20 vs. Georgia
Southern. The Eagles are going to come into the season thinking that they can be
the surprise team to challenge for the Sun Belt title. With two straight road
games to follow, and with so many big challenges ahead, USA can't give this
away. On the flip side, if the Jaguars win this, they should be able to beat
Idaho, Appalachian State and Georgia State to go on a nice run before dealing
with Troy and the huge battles with ULL and Arkansas State.
2013 Fun Stats:
- Kickoff Returns: Opponents 63 for 1,000 yards (15.9-yard average) – South Alabama 27 for 621 yards (23-yard average)
- Sacks: South Alabama 38 for 254 yards – Opponents 17 for 153 yards
- Penalties: Opponents 83 for 684 yards – South Alabama 64 for 549 yards
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