By: Michael Hanich | Sports Editor
A revitalized South Alabama Jaguars felt good all week preparing for their first Sun Belt Conference at the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks this past Saturday. It was a tough stretch for both teams leading up to the matchup with their tough non-conference schedules. South Alabama started off strong on their first drive with a three-yard touchdown run from quarterback Cephus Johnson. After that drive, the rest of the game went into Louisiana-Monroe’s possession that resulted in a 30-17 rout of the Jaguars.
The first quarter was strong for the Jaguars as they outgained the Warhawks in total yards accounted for with 158 yards on 22 plays to ULM’s 112 total yards on eight plays. They also accounted for seven first downs to ULM’s three first downs in the first quarter. The Warhawks took control of the game in the second quarter as ULM outgained the Jaguars in total yards 134-to-54. The Jaguars’ defense allowed 17 unanswered points, with ten of them in the second quarter.
Jaguars senior running back Tra Minter had a productive game as he rushed for 150 yards on 19 carries and averages 7.9 yards per carry. Minter also accounted for four receptions for 32 yards. Despite great run support from Minter, the Jaguars were too one-dimensional in terms of play execution. Quarterback Cephus Johnson threw for 114 yards and one interception on 14 completions (out of 26 attempts). Johnson also accounted for 21 rushes for 72 yards and two touchdowns.
Throughout the duration of the game, the Jaguars’ offense couldn’t create a positive drive. In the first quarter, the Jaguars’ offense was three-for-four on 3rd down conversions. Since the first quarter, the Jaguars were one-for-twelve. South Alabama encountered too many mistakes in key plays instead penalties that negated first downs on key drives.
Defensively for the Jaguars, poor tackling and missed assignments continue to plague South Alabama. Three of the Warhawks’ four touchdowns came from big plays of 20 yards or more. South Alabama’s defense allowed a total of 428 yards from the ULM offense on 57 total plays. The Jaguars once again struggled to stop a balanced offense in the passing and rushing game. 142 of the ULM Warhawks’ total yards were on the ground. ULM quarterback Caleb Evans passed for 286 yards and three touchdowns on 17 completions (out of 25 attempts). He also accounted for a rushing touchdown in the middle of the fourth quarter.
The South Alabama Jaguars defense accounted for a total of only two sacks and three tackles for loss. Middle linebacker Nick Mobley accounted for nine total tackles (team-high), two solo tackles, one sack, and one tackle for loss. Defensive end Rocel McWilliams accounted for four total tackles, two solo tackles, one sack, and 1.5 tackles for loss. This was a tough game for most of the defenders playing in a zone coverage as ULM quarterback Caleb Evans found enough room to get his passes in between coverages.
The South Alabama Jaguars (1-4) will look to their season back on their track this Thursday night when they host the Georgia Southern Eagles (1-3).