By: Michael Hanich | Sports Editor
The South Alabama Jaguars had a huge goal ahead of them going into week nine of the 2020 College Football season, looking to remain on top of the Sun Belt Conference Western Division and endure four of their next five games on the road. Last Thursday was their first test in their remaining season as they faced the Georgia Southern Eagles and their triple-option offense in Statesboro, Georgia. Both the Jaguars and the Eagles were electric and played an intense game. The Eagles overcame South’s 17-10 lead going into the fourth quarter as the Jaguars lost steam, losing 24-17.
The Jaguars were the first to put points on the scoreboard in their first drive of the game thanks to a 54-yard field goal from placekicker Diego Guajardo. That is the longest field goal in school program history. After falling behind 10-3 in the middle of the second quarter, the Jaguars were able to tie the game thanks to a three-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Desmond Trotter to tight end Brandon Crum. This was the first career touchdown for Crum as a college player. The Eagles outgained the Jaguars in the second quarter in total yards accounted for 150-to-62.
In the third quarter, the Jaguars defense held down the Eagles triple-option offense led by their dual-threat quarterback in Shai Werts and their multiple backs that could lead to misdirection. The defense was consistently crashing the backfield of Georgia Southern. South Alabama found similar troubles against the aggressive defense of the Eagles. Both the Jaguars and the Eagles averaged 4.8 yards per play in the third quarter. The Jaguars were able to find the end zone with 1:39 left in the third quarter with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Trotter to wide receiver Jalen Tolbert. This helped South Alabama lead with a 17-10 score.
In the fourth quarter, the Eagles had the momentum going forward on both sides of the ball. The first two drives for Georgia Southern made the Jaguars defense second guess themselves with their pitches to their backs. The defense covered the quarterback, but they failed to pick up the second running back in Wesley Kennedy III, who scored a 14-yard and 15-yard run with consecutive drives at the beginning of the fourth quarter. This made the score 24-17 with an Eagles lead, which put some serious pressure on South.
The Jaguars’ offense had several opportunities to drive the ball, but the offensive line’s poor performance continued. The offensive line gave up three sacks and only helped the rushing game account for -7 yards. In the final drive for South Alabama, Trotter was passing the ball efficiently to different receivers. South Alabama had a chance to tie the game up in their red zone but Tolbert failed to secure the touchdown on a tightly contested catch on fourth and goal. The Eagles took over with 1:01 left in the game.
Overall, the skilled offensive players played well for as much as long as the offensive line can give Trotter time in the pocket. Trotter threw for 200 yards, two touchdowns, and a quarterback rating of 160.7 on 20 completions (out of 27 passing attempts). The offensive line of the Jaguars gave up 11 tackles for loss and five sacks against the aggressive defense of the Eagles that blitzed often. This was one of the worst performances of the offensive line this season as injuries and inconsistencies are stacking up.
The Jaguars’ defense played well in multiple drives against an offense known for creating misdirection and mistakes in the triple-option offense. They went through three quarters, playing highly efficient in reading assigned players and crashing the scrimmage line. The Jaguars defense held the Eagles to only convert only 3-of-12 attempts on third downs.
In the fourth quarter, the Jags made the most mistakes on the defensive side of the ball. The Jags allowed 82 total yards and five first downs in the fourth quarter to go along with the 14 points allowed. Safety Keith Gallmon led the team in total tackles accounted (9) and solo tackles (8) and an interception and a forced fumble. Outside linebacker Riley Cole accounted for eight total tackles, six solo tackles, and one tackle for loss.
The South Alabama Jaguars (3-3; 2-1 in Sun Belt play) will look to recover from this loss as they will play their toughest game of the season this next Saturday. The Jaguar will travel to Conway, South Carolina as they face the undefeated #15 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (6-0; 4-0 in Sun Belt play).