By: Michael Hanich | Sports Editor
Week one was a new start for the South Alabama Jaguars as they traveled to Hattiesburg to take on the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. Last Thursday was a huge statement for fans, the opponents, and to themselves as the Jaguars shocked the Golden Eagles 32-21. The Jaguars snapped a 15-game road game losing streak as well as account for their first road win in head coach Steve Campbell’s career with South Alabama.
The Jaguars went into the game a heavy 12.5-point underdog to the Golden Eagles. The Golden Eagles had talent on both sides of the ball while the Jags came from their worst season in their 11 seasons as a football program. South was determined to make the adjustments needed during the game to be efficient on both sides of the ball.
In the first drive of the game, Jaguars sophomore quarterback Desmond Trotter saw a wide-open junior wide receiver Jalen Tolbert in a slant route. Tolbert then took the catch and turned the play into a 73-yard touchdown one minute and three seconds into the game. Jaguars Running back Avery Terrion found the endzone for a two-yard run late in the first quarter. The defense for the Jaguars was suffocating the line of scrimmage which made it impossible to gain solid run production up the middle.
By the end of the first quarter, Trotter had thrown for 162 yards, a touchdown, and an interception on six completed passes on nine attempts. Tolbert caught four receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown. South Alabama’s offense was doing a great job of mixing up play formations and play schemes with deep passes, outside runs, and RPO-style plays.
The Golden Eagles did not get on the scoreboard until early in the second quarter from a two-yard run from Don Ragsdale. Southern Miss was finding a rhythm of their own by mixing up the play schemes and making the Jaguars’ defense second guess themselves. The Golden Eagles were able to kick a 24-yard field goal with 14-seconds left in the second quarter. The Jaguars took a 13-10 lead into halftime.
In their first drive of the third quarter, the Jaguars continued to find that rhythm of driving the ball down the field. Trotter found Tolbert again for a 31-yard touchdown to make the score 20-10. The Golden Eagles were also driving the ball in the next drive but the Jaguars’ defense was able to hold them to another field in the red zone to make the score 20-13. The Jaguars responded by taking a long drive, starting at their 12-yard line, and turning into a 21-yard field goal from Diego Guajardo.
The Jaguars continued to find success on the offensive side of the ball in the fourth quarter. After Trotter was being evaluated on his hamstring, Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C. transfer Chance Lovertich came in to help lead the offense. Lovertich threw a quick bootleg to senior slot receiver Kawaan Baker where he took for a 52-yard touchdown play to make the score 29-13.
The following drive, the Golden Eagles took a 75-yard drive into a touchdown with a successful two-point conversion with 5:42 left in the game. With the Jaguars having the game in a one-possession game, they either needed a score or to hold the ball for the clock to run out. Guajardo’s 34-yard field goal with 1:40 left in the game made it nearly impossible for the Golden Eagles to come back.
The Jaguars outgained the Golden Eagles in total yards accounted for 528-to-409. The Jaguars were stout in the passing game with Trotter and in the running game with Davis and Avery. The offensive line was highly efficient as they did not give up a sack and only two tackles for loss from the Eagles defense.
The Jaguars’ tenacious defense accounted for two sacks and five tackles for loss on the Eagles’ offense. They held the Eagles’ running game to only 95 yards and suppressed Eagles quarterback Jack Abraham’s passes. The Jaguars were very productive in key situations in the red zone because they forced a missed field goal and accounted for a turnover on downs in their last possession of the game.
Trotter threw for 299 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions on 16 completions (out of 27 passing attempts). Carlos Davis rushed for 85 yards on 15 carries on key outside runs. Tolbert caught six receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns while Jalen Wayne caught six receptions for 101 yards.
Linebacker Nick Mobley led the team in total tackles accounted for with 15. Outside linebacker Riley Cole was a star for the defense by shutting down key run plays as well as creating heavy pressure on Abraham. Cole accounted for 12 total tackles and a quarterback hit. Defensive end Jeremiah Littles accounted for six total tackles, two tackles for loss, and a sack. Finally, nose guard Gi’Narious Johnson accounted for three total tackles, one sack, and one tackle for loss.
Moving forward with a win under their belt, The Jaguars (1-0) will host the Tulane Green Wave in their first-ever game in their new on-campus stadium in Hancock Whitney Stadium this Saturday at 6 p.m.