By: Michael Hanich | Sports Editor
Photos by: Micheal Dunn | Photographer
It has been more than three weeks since the South Alabama Jaguars took the field at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Last Saturday was a new start for the Jaguars as they played their first Sun Belt Conference game against the Texas State Bobcats game. The Jaguars’ new start was a great start as they came out with their first-ever win in Hancock Whitney Stadium with a 30-20 score against the Bobcats.
South Alabama has not found a lot of success in the past with their first conference games as they were 3-5 in the past eight seasons. Their last win in the first game of Sun Belt Conference play was in 2018 with a 41-31 home win against the Bobcats.
The Jaguars were looking to find their offensive efficiency after scoring only 10 points in the 42-10 loss at home to the UAB Blazers on September 24. They had a better chance with Desmond Trotter back as the starting quarterback. In the first quarter, the Jaguars found success on offense in the passing and run game as they accounted for 127 total yards.
They took their time with their second drive as they had 14 plays that took 5:48 minutes to get their first touchdown of the game. This was a one-yard touchdown run from running back Carlos Davis. The defense held their own against the Bobcats as they threw the ball more than anticipated. South Alabama went into halftime with a 17-10 lead after a one-yard touchdown pass from Chance Lovertich to wide receiver Jalen Tolbert. Lovertich took over a few drives to mix up the schemes of the Bobcats’ defense. The Jaguars outgained the Bobcats in total yards accounted for in the first half 247-to-146.
After some slow and inconsistent drives from both teams at the beginning of the second half, the Bobcats were able to tie the game up 17-17 with a one-yard from running back Brock Sturges. One drive later for the Bobcats, they looked to use that new momentum to score until Jaguars linebacker Shawn Jennings made a tackle for loss on first down. On 4th and 2nd on the Jags’ 37-yard line, outside linebacker Riley Cole and defensive end Maurice Strong Jr. came out with the stop for a turnover on downs.
The Jaguars used their newly shifted momentum to get back the lead with Diego Guajardo’s second field goal of the day, this time from 24-yards. The Bobcats scored one more time with a field goal to tie it up again by mixing up the playschemes of the run and passing situations.
South’s offense was able to gas the Bobcats’ defense with their short-to-mid-range plays through the air and ground. The Bobcats also encountered two penalties in that drive with pass interference and an offside to give South more yards. The drive ended with an eight-yard touchdown pass from Trotter to Kawaan Baker to make the score 27-20. South’s last drive of the game was a 10-play clock-killing session that resulted in a 44-yard field goal from Guajardo with 1:09 minutes left in the game.
It was not a composed second half from the Jaguars on both sides of the ball. The defense allowed 202 total yards in the second half while the offense stalled at times. The Jaguars outgained the Bobcats in total yards accounted for 385-to-348. The key for the Jags on both sides was the third-down conversions as the offense was 10-for-18 on third downs while the Bobcats only converted 4-of-13 attempts on third downs.
Trotter threw for 187 yards and a touchdown on 18 completions (out of 22 passing attempts). Carlos Davis rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries as he was the workhorse for the Jaguars offense. Davis became the first running back to have back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances since Xavier Johnson in 2015. Jalen Tolbert caught nine receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown.
Outside linebacker Riley Cole had a tremendous game as he was named Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week. Cole accounted for 15 total tackles, ten solo tackles, and 1.5 tackles for loss in some of the most urgent times for South. Safety Keith Gallmon accounted for four total tackles, three solo tackles, and three pass breakups. Defensive end Jeremiah Littles accounted for the team’s only sack of the game. The defense accounted for six tackles for loss and six pass breakups.
This Saturday, the South Alabama Jaguars (2-2; 1-0 in Sun Belt play) will face Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (0-5; 0-2 in Sun Belt play) in Hancock Whitney Stadium.