By: Michael Hanich | Sports Editor
Just one final road game was left for the South Alabama Jaguars football team as they traveled to face the Georgia State Panthers in Atlanta. The Jaguars wanted to continue to develop their offense that has experienced changes in players and formations. South had a chance to experience significant improvement against a Panthers’ defense that was ranked 125th in the nation in points allowed per game (38) and 123rd in total yards allowed per game (473.2).
Defensively, the Jaguars needed to stop the unique spread-option offense of the Panthers. Although the Jaguars started the game on a positive note, they couldn’t find a way to consistently score throughout the game. South Alabama would lose their final road game of the season with a 28-15 score.
The Jaguars got on the board first with a 34-yard field goal from freshman placekicker Diego Guajardo in their first drive of the game. South Alabama outgained the Panthers in total yards 60-to-44 yards in the first quarter. South spread the ball around in their runs and designed RPO (run-pass-option) plays. Defensively, the Jaguars were dominating the Panthers in the first quarter as they accounted for four tackles for loss against Georgia State. Defensive end Jeffery Whatley, defensive end Rocel McWilliams, outside linebacker Riley Cole, and safety DJ Daniels each accounted for a tackle for loss.
After the first quarter, the Jaguars’ defense collapsed from the Panthers’ dynamic rushing offense and the spread passing schemes. Offensively, they didn’t seem prepared to last throughout the entire game despite a recent late-season surge.
In the second and third quarters, the Panthers outgained the Jaguars 318-to-94 in total yards accounted for. At the end of the third quarter, the Jaguars’ offense was 4-of-12 overall on third-down conversions and 0-for-2 on fourth-down conversions. The Jaguars’ offense only found the red zone (20-yards to the end zone) once and that was in the first quarter. Georgia State finished out the third quarter with a 21-3 score.
South Alabama was able to find some success again in the fourth quarter after Panthers were able to get a 28-3 lead. It wasn’t until 5:56 left in the game when the Jaguars finally found the end zone. Redshirt freshman Desmond Trotter found sophomore wide receiver Jalen Wayne for a 20-yard touchdown score. The extra point was no good as the snap was too high. With 49 seconds left in the game, Trotter connected to sophomore wide receiver Jalen Tolbert for a 52-yard touchdown on a post route. The two-point conversion was no good to make the score 28-15.
With 49 seconds left in the game, down by 13 points, the Jaguars attempted an onside kick to get the ball back. Despite an executed kick and a touch from the Panthers, Georgia State was able to recover the game and seal the game.
The fourth quarter is where the Jaguars were able to find some success on both sides of the ball. The Jaguars outgained the Panthers 172-to-22 in total yards accounted for. Defensive ends Rocel McWilliams and Jeffery Whatley each accounted for two tackles for loss. Trotter finished with 218 passing yards, two touchdowns, one interception (off a bobbled catch) for 12 completions (out of 25 attempts). He also rushed for 37 yards on 14 carries.
Senior running back Tra Minter rushed for 70 yards on 18 carries as well as ran a kickoff return for 55 yards. After Saturday’s performance, Minter broke the Jaguars’ program record for all-purpose yards with 4,210 career yards.
Overall, the Panthers outgained the Jaguars in total yards accounted for 384-to-326. The Panthers came more prepared and played with more intensity throughout the entire game. South Alabama played well in some quarters, but the Panthers played more consistently in all four quarters.
The Jaguars will return home for their final game of the season and in Ladd-Peebles Stadium overall before playing in their own on-campus stadium in 2020. The Jaguars (1-10; 0-7 in Sun Belt Conference play) will host the Arkansas State Red Wolves (7-2; 5-2 in Sun Belt play) this Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. central.