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CFN Take: South Alabama Stuffs ULL
Posted Dec 7, 2013

2013 South Alabama Jaguars - Head Coach: Joey Jones

South Alabama Jaguars

2013 Record: 6-6
8/29 Southern Utah L 22-21
9/7 at Tulane W 41-39
9/14 WKU W 31-24
9/28 at Tennessee L 31-24
10/5 at Troy L 34-33
10/19 Kent State W 38-21
10/26 at Texas State L 33-31
11/2 Arkansas State L 17-16
11/16 at Navy L 42-14
11/23 ULM W 36-14
11/30 at Georgia State W 38-17
12/7 Louisiana W30-8
at South Alabama 30, Louisiana-Lafayette 8
Basically … South Alabama became bowl eligible by dominating a mistake-prone ULL by scoring the first 30 points of the game with two short touchdown runs from Kendall Houston and three Aleem Sunanon field goals on offense, and the defense put it well out of reach with a 42-yard pick six from Qudarius Ford with 16 seconds to play in the first half. ULL only managed a 47-yard Ricky Johnson touchdown catch late in the fourth.
- Louisiana-Lafayette turned the ball over four times and gained just 212 yards.
- South Alabama QB Ross Metheny completed 13-of-23 passes for 171 yards, and ran 16 times for 46 yards
- Louisiana-Lafayette three quarterback completed 9-of-26 passes for 143 yards and a score with two picks
- South Alabama had the ball for 35:52

South Alabama 38, at Georgia State 17
Basically … South Alabama kept its bowl dream alive getting up 41-3 with Jay Jones running for two scores and Ross Metheny hitting Shavarez Smith on a 37-yard touchdown pass. Georgia State got one-yard touchdown runs from Ronnie Bell and Sean Jeppesen late, but USA had total control.
- Georgia State turned it over three times and failed to convert on ten third down chances.
- South Alabama RB Joey Jones ran 17 times for 102 yards and two scores.
- South Alabama WR Shavarez Smith caught ten passes for 194 yards and a sore.
- Georgia State QB Ronnie Bell completed 17-of-34 passes for 321 yards and a pick.

South Alabama 38, at Georgia State 17
Basically … South Alabama kept its bowl dream alive getting up 41-3 with Jay Jones running for two scores and Ross Metheny hitting Shavarez Smith on a 37-yard touchdown pass. Georgia State got one-yard touchdown runs from Ronnie Bell and Sean Jeppesen late, but USA had total control.
- Georgia State turned it over three times and failed to convert on ten third down chances.
- South Alabama RB Joey Jones ran 17 times for 102 yards and two scores.
- South Alabama WR Shavarez Smith caught ten passes for 194 yards and a sore.
- Georgia State QB Ronnie Bell completed 17-of-34 passes for 321 yards and a pick.

at Navy 42, South Alabama 14
Basically … Navy ran for 351 yards and dominated after getting down in the second quarter. USA took a 14-10 lead on the second Ross Metheny to Shavarez Smith touchdown pass of the first half, but that was it, The Midshipmen scored the last 32 points with touchdown runs from Shawn White, Keenan Reynolds and Tago Smith, and Matt Aiken caught a 45-yard touchdown catch from Reynolds.
- Navy RB Darius Staten led all rushers with 127 yards and a score on seven carries. Keenan Reynolds completed 10-of-17 passes for 168 yards and a score, and he ran 17 times for 59 yards and a touchdown.
- USA QB Ross Metheny completed 18-of-27 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran nine times for 23 yards.
- USA RB WR Shavarez Smith caught five passes for 65 yards and two scores.
- Navy outgained USA 519 yards to 300.

Arkansas State 17, at South Alabama 16
Basically … Sirgregory Thornton ran for a six-yard touchdown with the conversion giving Arkansas State a 17-16 lead, and the defense held on stopping the Jaguars on their final two drives. USA started held a 6-0 halftime lead on two Aleem Sunanon field goals, but ASU took the lead on a 12-yard Adam Kennedy touchdown run. Kendall Houston’s two-yard run and a third Sunanon field goal gave USA the lead back midway through the fourth, but the Red Wolves answered with the Thornton score.
- Arkansas State QB Adam Kennedy completed 15-of-17 passes for 136 yards, and he led the team with 65 rushing yards with a score on 16 carries.
- South Alabama QB Ross Metheny completed 15-of-29 passes for 228 yards with a pick, and he ran 17 times for a team-leading 77 yards.
- ASU committed 11 penalties for 73 yards. USA got nailed for just three.
- South Alabama Scott Garber put four of his six punts inside the 20, averaging 42 yards per kick.

at Troy 34, South Alabama 33
Basically … Troy pulled out the thrilling win in the final moments as Corey Robinson found Eric Thomas for a 20-yard touchdown with just seven seconds to play to tie it, and the Will Scott extra point won it. The Trojans seemed like they were in control with a 24-7 lead helped by a 62-yard touchdown catch by Thomas from Deon Anthony, but USA roared back with Bryant Lavender catching a 56-yard touchdown pass, and Ross Metheny running for a score before coming up with what seemed like the game-winner on a 65-yard scoring play to Jereme Jones with just 48 seconds to play. Robinson marched the Trojans 66 yards in 41 seconds for the victory.
- Just when it seemed like Troy was going to collapse in painful fashion, giving up 20 fourth quarter points, Corey Robinson came up with a brilliant finish. Deon Anthony might provide a little more mobility under center, but Robinson is still the main man completing 20-of-26 throws for 210 yards and two scores.
- South Alabama has to shake this off quickly. The Jaguars cranked up 630 yards of total offense, and it had the game in hand in the final moments in thrilling fashion, but the secondary couldn’t close. The 11 penalties were too many, and it took a while to get things going on O, but the team showed it’s going to be in the Sun Belt title hunt all season long.

at Tennessee 31, South Alabama 24
Basically … Tennessee held on for dear life as a furious South Alabama comeback attempt came up just short with Brian Randolph picking off a Ross Metheny pass in the end zone. Down 31-7, USA went wild with Metheny running for a five-yard run and Cris Dinham scoring from three yards out to pull the Jaguars within seven before the final ill-fated drive. Tennessee seemed to have control with Justin Worley throwing for two scores and Marlin Neal and Rajion Neal each scoring from short, but sputtering drives and a missed field goal allowed the Jaguars to get back in it.
- In Tennessee’s ongoing search for decent quarterback play, Justin Worley was hit-or-miss completing 20-of-36 passes for 204 yards with two scores and three interceptions. He spread the ball around well and came up with a few nice throws, but the offense went absolutely nowhere in the second half.
- Ross Metheny did everything he could to carry the USA offense, especially late. He ran for 67 yards and two scores and completed half of his throws for 234 yards with two picks. It wasn’t always pretty, but he was balling.
- Rajion Neal needs to be even more involved in the offense. He handled the workload, carrying the ball 25 times for 169 yards and a score, but unless Worley and the passing game can improve and be more consistent, Tennessee will be an easy team to gameplan for.
- The USA defense was night-and-day better in the second half and did a nice job of forcing third down plays that Worley couldn’t convert.

at South Alabama 31, WKU 24, Sept. 14
Basically … Trey Fetner ran for a one-yard score with 1:38 to play to break a 24-24 tie to give South Alabama the win. Down 21-10 after halftime, the Jaguars owned the second half with 21 points helped by two of Aleem Sunanon’s three field goals and a Jay Jones four-yard touchdown run, but the defense helped the cause with three interceptions. WKU got three touchdown passes from Brandon Doughty, with two to Nicholas Norris, but the picks were devastating.
- Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. Western Kentucky keeps shooting itself in the foot. The Tennessee game was highlighted, but the three interceptions thrown by Brandon Doughty were the difference against USA. The mistakes and the eight penalties proved very, very costly.
- Is South Alabama now a major factor in the Sun Belt race? Yeah. If it’s good enough to beat WKU, it’s good enough to beat anyone else in the league. The running game might not have been a major factor, but Ross Metheny completed 11-of-15 passes for 193 yards and didn’t make a slew of mistakes.
- Antonio Andrews ran 15 times for 122 yards, but he didn’t get the ball enough. The Hilltoppers are putting the ball in Doughty’s hands way too much when he should be handing the ball off and grinding out the offense.
- Tyrell Pearson might have come up with two picks, but corner Qudarius Ford was the Jaguars’ defensive star with 12 tackles with two broken up passes.

South Alabama 41, at Tulane 39, Sept. 7
Basically … South Alabama was ahead throughout in the Superdome, and briefly squandered its lead toward the end of the third quarter, yet rallied late for a pivotal win for the program. A blocked punt gave the Jaguars the go-ahead score, but the win wasn’t secured until the Green Wave failed on a two-point conversion attempt with 1:19 left in regulation.
- QB Ross Metheny was USA’s MVP, throwing for 290 yards, running for 75 more and accounting for four first-half touchdowns.
- Nick Montana continues to perform well for the Green Wave offense. The transfer quarterback threw three touchdown passes, while connecting with star WR Ryan Grant 14 times for 187 yards and two scores.
- Tulane needs to become a better team on the ground, both offensively and defensively. The Jaguars controlled the line of scrimmage, limiting RB Orleans Darkwa to 32 yards and two scores on 10 carries.
- Defeating a Conference USA opponent—on the road—will provide a big lift to a South Alabama team that won just twice in 2012, once against FBS teams.

South Alabama
Southern Utah 22, at South Alabama 21
Basically … Southern Utah rallied back in the final minutes with a two-yard Anthony Norris touchdown catch with just over six minutes to play and a 28-yard Colton Cook field goal with no time left on the clock for the win. USA got two Ross Metheny touchdown passes and a 40-yard Brandon Bridge scoring run.
- The Jaguar defense did its job until late, but it had a hard time getting off the field. Enrique Williams came up with 12 tackles and a sack with a forced fumble.
- Brandon Bridge might add more danger under center with his mobility, but Ross Metheny makes the offense work a little sharper. He spreads the ball around better.

Spring Analysis

Why To Be Excited 2012 was a season of building up and preparing with several young players thrown to the wolves. The hope is for a payoff with 18 starters returning including nine on an offense that started to find some nice things that worked as the season went on. Quarterback Ross Metheny and all the top skill players return. The diminutive Jereme Jones should be one of the Sun Belt’s most dangerous weapons, and Bryan Lavender should come up with a strong season at flanker.

Why To Be Grouchy While there’s a ton of experience returning on offense, the line has to replace two starters in veteran center Trey Clark and versatile left guard Tremain Smith. While the defense is also full of experience, it loses tackling machine linebacker Jake Johnson and third leading tackler, safety B.J. Scott. One of the other big positives, kicker Michael Chapuseaux, is also gone after hitting 20-of-27 field goals and constantly bailing out a pedestrian offense.

What Needs Working On The team has to get tighter and eliminate the big mistakes. Penalties weren’t a consistent problem, but there was a stretch when the Jaguars couldn’t stop getting flagged getting nailed a whopping 28 times in a two game stretch against Troy and Arkansas State and being penalized 11 times against North Texas and Middle Tennessee. Losing fumbles was a huge problem, failing to jump on 17 of the 22 put on the ground to go along with 16 picks, going just four games without losing multiple turnovers.

Non-Conference Games: Southern Utah, at Tulane, at Tennessee, Kent State, at Navy
Realistic Best Case Record: 5-7
Worst Case Record: 0-12
Likely Finish: 2-10
Pre-Preseason Projected Wins: Southern Utah, at Georgia State
Pre-Preseason Projected Losses: at Tulane, WKU, at Tennessee, at Troy, Kent State, at Texas State, Arkansas State, at Navy, ULM, Louisiana

Schedule Analysis: The Jaguars will have to keep trying to navigate their way through the FBS waters against a tougher schedule. Southern Utah needs to be a must win to take advantage of the opening home date before going to Tulane. Starting out Sun Belt play against WKU is at home before getting a week off to get ready for the fun of going to Tennessee. There isn’t a home game from mid-September until the November 19th game against Kent State, and there’s another off week in November before going to Navy. Closing out with three conference home games in the final four, and with the road date coming against a bad Georgia State, should help.

Team Concerns For 2013: The running game has to be far more effective after dying down the stretch - 18 yards against Hawaii is inexcusable - and coming up with just four rushing scores over the final six games. Turnovers were a huge problem with 33 giveaways that destroyed offensive momentum time and again, but the defense didn't exactly bail the O out of too many jams. The pass rush went bye-bye outside of the six sacks generated against Nicholls State.

The 2013 Class Is Heavy On ... Skill players. Joey Jones and his staff didn't ignore the defense, coming up with linebacker Jalen Wells and JUCO transfer Desmond Lavelle for the middle, but the stars on on offense. Noah Armstrong will one day be the team's top offensive tackle, while Kaleb Blanchard might be too good to keep out of the running back mix right away. It's a deep stable of receivers led by Dejon Funderburk and JUCO transfer ShaVarez Smith, while quarterback Brett Sheehan was a great get with tremendous upside.

2012 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 113. That Class Was Heavy On ... Offensive line. The Jaguars are going to have to build from the inside out with the line depth gone thanks to graduation. This year’s class will go big on guard and center, while the secondary will get some instant help from the JUCO ranks. Corner options are going to be a must, and this class should bring them.