By: Michael Hanich | Sports Editor
2020 was the year of hope despite threats of COVID-19 attempting to shut down the football season at any given moment. Last Saturday, the South Alabama Jaguars were looking to finish their 2020 College Football season with a win over their rivals in the Troy Trojans in the ninth annual Battle for the Belt. This was one of the worst performances for the Jags all season as Troy dominated South at home 29-0.
It was a tale of two teams in the first half of the rivalry game as the Trojans completely took over and never looked back. In the first quarter, the Trojans accounted for 69 total yards and came out with a 3-0 lead. The Jaguars accounted for only 29 total yards against a tough and efficient Trojans’ defense. In the second quarter, the Trojans accounted for 214 total yards and 24 points, with South only accounting for 72 total yards. Overall, in the first, the Trojans accounted for 283 total yards and 27 points, while the Jaguars only accounted for 101 total yards.
The Trojans’ offense found ways to consistently beat out the Jaguars’ defense coverage schemes and blitzing patterns. They had a rhythm of completing multiple passes from all over the field in the mid-range distance that extended drives. In the second quarter, the Trojans averaged 8.9 yards per play. The defense for South Alabama often made big plays like safety Dewayne Betts’ first-quarter interception. Defensive tackle Gi’Narious Johnson and outside linebacker Riley Cole also played significantly impressive despite the loss. South’s defense wasn’t fully prepared to stop the dynamic and quick tempo offense of the Trojans.
The Jaguars’ offense was constantly facing the pressure of the Trojans’ defense especially at the line of scrimmage. Once again, the offensive line of South Alabama was unable to consistently keep the pocket clean for quarterback Desmond Trotter. The Trojans’ defense accounted for five sacks and eight tackles for loss against the Jaguars’ offense. The Trojans held the Jaguars to 57 total rushing yards on 30 rushing attempts for an average of 1.9 yards per attempt.
Trotter threw for 144 yards, one interception, and a quarterback rating of 89.6 on 15 completions (out of 28 passing attempts). Freshman quarterback Eli Gainey three for 38 yards on six completions (out of nine passing attempts). This Saturday was highly significant for junior receiver Jalen Tolbert, who caught five receptions for 92 yards. Tolbert became the single-season record holder for receiving yards and the first 1,000-yard receiver in program history. He finished the season with 64 receptions for 1,085 yards and eight touchdowns.
This loss to the Trojans was disappointing to the program and Jaguar Nation as it gave flashbacks to last year’s 2-10 season. One day after the loss to the Trojans, athletic director Joel Erdman announced that head coach Steve Campbell would be relieved of his title with the program. The Jaguars finished the 2020 season with a 4-7 record (3-5 in Sun Belt Conference play). Overall, Campbell finished his career at South Alabama with a 9-26 record (6-18 in Sun Belt Conference).
While it is tough for a program to fire a head coach in a span of three years, the move was in the right direction for the program to be rebuilt. Several candidates are currently being looked at for South Alabama, but the players have a ton of talent returning for the 2021 College Football season. The Jaguars will be back for 2021 with Tolbert and some star senior leadership and head coach in program history.