By: Michael Hanich | Sports Editor
It has been a season of highs and lows for the South Alabama Jaguars football team (3-5; 2-3 in Sun Belt play). After starting the season 3-2, three tough consecutive road losses followed the Jaguars against Sun Belt Conference teams. The Jaguars come off this three-game road trip to host the Georgia State Panthers (3-4; 2-4 in Sun Belt play). This will be the first game in Hancock Whitney Stadium since Oct. 24,, when the Jaguars defeated the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks with a 38-14 score.
The Jaguars offense looks to create some spark in productivity in the passing and rushing game. South Alabama’s offense ranks 106th in the nation in points per game (20.9) and 95th in the nation in total yards per game (342.8) in eight games. This is a huge distinction in the direction that the Jaguars were heading earlier this season. The offensive line’s health and instability have stalled the deep passing game and consistency of the running game.
South will be facing the Panthers’ defense that ranks 27th in the nation (second in the conference) in rushing yards allowed per game (122) but 118th in the nation (last in the conference) in passing yards allowed per game (305.6). This will be a game where quarterback Desmond Trotter can have his best game since their last home game against the Warhawks. The biggest key for South’s offense is to protect Trotter from pressure from a highly aggressive Panthers defense that has accounted for 53 tackles for loss and 21 sacks. The Jaguars offense has allowed 26 sacks in eight games this season.
Defensively, the Jaguars have a huge task ahead of them on Saturday as they must be vigilant against a well-balanced Panthers offense. The Jaguars’ front seven will need to stop a tough Panthers rushing offense that ranks 32nd in the nation (third in the conference) in rushing yards per game (205.1). This will be a game where the defensive line must close off the running lanes to force the running backs to make a late run to the outside.
Outside linebacker Nick Mobley and safety Keith Gallmon must be alert and ready for the outside runs. Senior hybrid pass rusher Riley Cole has one of the biggest roles of the week by stopping the run in the backfield and containing the Panthers dual-threat quarterback in Cornelious Brown. The Jaguars can’t allow Brown to consistently extend drives on the run or through the short passing game. Cole is sixth in the nation and first in the Sun Belt in total tackles accounted (75) as well as 39 solo tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, and two forced fumbles.
The Jaguars are currently a 3.5-point underdog to the Panthers as South looks to break a two-game losing streak to Georgia State. The Jaguars will kick off their game against Georgia State this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. C.T. on ESPNU and 97.1 FM – The Prowl.