By: Michael Hanich | Sports Editor
The eighth annual Battle for the Belt rivalry commenced once again between the South Alabama Jaguars and the Troy Trojans. The Jaguars were not having the season that they wanted halfway through the season but there was hope Wednesday night at Troy. Before last night’s game, the home team was 2-5 in this rivalry. The Jaguars played very well offensively to compete through most of the game, but they made too many mistakes on both sides of the ball. The Jaguars were facing a 23-13 deficit when their comeback fell short in the 4th quarter.
The Jaguars’ offense found some more momentum in driving the ball down the field than in the past few games. They were able to accomplish some of those goals that they wanted to accomplish through a longer set of off days. In the end, they still found some problems of converting on third downs. They finished the game by converting 3-for-12 on 3rd down conversions. Jaguars quarterback Cephus Johnson relied on his passing abilities then with his legs on run plays. While he was more successful than in the past couple of games, he still made a few too many mistakes that cost South some drives. Johnson passed for 20 completions (out of 32 attempts) for 183 yards and two interceptions.
Senior running back Tra Minter had success running the ball mostly on outside runs. He rushed for 86 yards on 17 carries and caught six receptions for 36 yards. Minter was one of the most reliable offensive players for the Jaguars but wasn’t utilized as much as Troy’s running back in D.K. Billingsley’s 20 rushes. South relied on the arm of Johnson in certain running situations especially near the goal line. Wide receiver Kawaan Baker caught five receptions for 42 yards and rushed for 15 yards and a touchdown off a jet sweep. South’s offensive line gave up two sacks, three quarterback hits, and six tackles for loss against a ferocious Trojans defense.
Defensively, the Jaguars slowed down the Trojans’ offense through the first quarter and the majority of the second quarter. Just before halftime, the Jaguars allowed two field goals in a span of a minute and eight seconds. Overall, the Jaguars’ defense allowed 432 total yards as well as 220 in the rushing game.
Once again, missed tackles were key in allowing Billingsley to rush for 100 yards on 20 carries. The Jaguars’ zone coverages allowed too many easy open passes for Trojans quarterback Kaleb Barker to connect to his receivers. Barker passed for 20 completions (out of 30 attempts) for 194 yards and two interceptions. Both of his interceptions were picked off on fantastic tight coverages by Jaguars cornerback Travis Reed. Outside linebacker Riley Cole led the team in total tackles with 11. Jaguars’ placekicker Frankie Onate kicked two field goals for South for 17-yards and 31-yards.The South Alabama Jaguars (1-6) will use this longer set of days to practice efficiently. The Jaguars’ next game will be at home when they host the #24 Appalachian State Mountaineers (5-0) on October 26th.