By: Michael Hanich | Sports Editor
The South Alabama Jaguars (1-1) are back in action this Thursday night after having the week off. The Jaguars will host the UAB Blazers (1-1) for their final non-conference of the season. Last season, the Jaguars traveled to Birmingham, Alabama, for the first-ever meeting between the teams as the Blazers crushed the Jags with a 35-3 score. This Thursday, the Jags look to get revenge after last year’s loss to the Blazers. They are also looking to rebound from their week two loss to the Tulane Green Wave with a 27-24 late fourth-quarter loss.
South Alabama’s passing game has seen a surprising upgrade to the offense capabilities. The Jaguars avenge 28 points per game and 342 passing yards per game thanks to the aggressive of playing quicker, more aggressive deep passing schemes. Wide receivers Jalen Tolbert and Kawaan Baker are turning into stars of the Sun Belt Conference. Tolbert currently ranks third in the nation in receiving yards (268) while Baker ranks fifth (211).
The Jaguars will be starting former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College transfer quarterback Chance Lovertich against the Blazers. Lovertich had an up-and-down performance against the Green Wave two weeks ago as he replaced the injured Desmond Trotter. He will look to lead a more consistent Jaguars offense against a Blazers’ team that has had trouble stopping the run in the two games this season. The Blazers’ defense gives up an average of 218.5 rushing yards per game. This would be a perfect time to establish the inside rushing game with Carlos Davis and a solid interior offensive line.
One of the biggest improvements from last season to this season is stopping the run and passing game. In two competitive games, the Jaguars give up only an average of 24 points per game and 403 total yards per game to opposing offenses. The defense has been better reading specific passing schemes more quickly in time for the pass breakups. Weakside linebacker Nick Mobley has been the player that impacts the Jaguars the most in this field as he leads the team in total tackles accounted for with 23. Safety Keith Gallmon continues to develop into an All-Sun Belt level safety as he has accounted for 18 total tackles and 10 solo tackles.
The Blazers will be without their experienced starting quarterback in Tyler Johnston III, who is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury. The loss of Johnston at quarterback limits the Blazers to spread the ball around and create misdirection with their RPO-play style. They will continue to run the ball with their first-team all-conference running back in Spencer Brown and their productive offensive line.
This will be a huge game for the Jaguars’ defensive line and linebacker corps. They have been more productive in swarming to the ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage and on outside runs. Fatigue will be the main concern for this defense as the Jaguars gave up more rushing yards to Tulane as the game progresses. The Jaguars gave up 203 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 40 rushing attempts to the Green Wave. Part of the fatigue was due to the quick turnaround of being quickly back on the field due to the Jaguars’ inability to drive the ball on offense.
The defensive line, led by defensive tackle Gi’Narious Johnson and defensive end Jeremiah Littles will be huge factors for defending the power run game. Offensively, Lovertich will give the chance to lead the Jaguars in a huge non-conference game for South Alabama. He will need to be composed as he will face an aggressive and be more alert in the pocket than he was in the game against Tulane. The Jaguars will need to develop the rushing game as they are more vulnerable at defending the run.
The Blazers are currently a 7.5-point favor over the Jaguars. Kickoff will be at 6:30 p.m. CST on ESPN and 97.1 The Prowl.