By: Micheal Hanich | Sports Editor
The tough non-conference schedule for the South Alabama Jaguars football team continued last Saturday when they hosted the Memphis Tigers. For the Jaguars to win a big game, they had to win the little battles they have been playing against so far in this short season. Even though the Jaguars held a tough Tigers team through a good margin of the first half, the Tigers won a convincing game with a 42-6 score.
The Jaguars were up for the task of competing against one of the toughest teams just outside the power five conferences in the Memphis Tigers. Defensively, the Jaguars were facing off against one of the most balanced teams in the nation in terms of running the ball and efficiently passing all-around. The Jaguars held the high-power Tigers offense to only seven points in the first half. In the second half, the Jaguars defenders began to second guess themselves in terms of reads and where to attack on plays. Memphis went into halftime with a 23-0 lead on South Alabama by adding 16 points from the second quarter.
The Tigers’ offensive line were dominant at the line of scrimmage as they opened huge running lanes for their running backs Kenneth Gainwell and Kylan Watkins. Both Memphis backs rushed for 271 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. Overall, the Tigers accounted for 530 total offensive yards with 312 coming from the rushing game. Jaguars safety D.J. Daniels was the team’s leading tackler as he was the last resort for long runs by the Tigers backs. He accounted for eight total tackles, seven solo tackles, and a tackle for loss. Defensive ends Rocel McWilliams and Jeffery Whatley each accounted for 1.5 tackles for loss. Overall, the Jaguars got into the backfield of the second half often but by then, the game was already decided.
For the Jaguars’ offense, their goal was to execute the short plays and then get to the longer plays. The Jaguars offense was too hasty in trying to make the big plays happen against a tenacious Memphis Tigers’ defense. Their front six defenders, which is their four defensive line and two linebackers, clogged up the running lanes for the Jaguar running backs. The Jaguars only accounted for 101 yards on 39 rushing yards for an average of 2.6 yards per rush. It did not help South Alabama’s offense that senior running back Tra Minter was forced out of the game late in the first quarter with an injury.
Jaguars quarterback Cephus Johnson tried to carry the offense against the Tigers’ defense with a combination of his legs and his arms. Johnson had an inefficient game as he forced himself into mistakes that caused drives to fall short. Johnson accounted for a 7.1 QBR as well as passing for 42 yards on five completions (out of 14 completions). He did run the ball 14 times for 37 yards while avoiding constant pressure from the Tigers’ defensive line and blitzing schemes.
Overall, the offense only accounted for 248 total yards while only averaging 3.8 yards per play. The Jaguars will look be more efficient on defense and get healthier on offense through practice this week. The Jaguars (1-2) will be playing their last non-conference game on their schedule when they travel to face the UAB Blazers (2-0) next Saturday.