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September 13, 2013

Analyzing the Enemy: South Alabama Jaguars



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South Alabama is coming off a 41-39 win at Tulane on Saturday, should the Hilltoppers be worried?

Probably not.

But at the same time, they better not cough up seven turnovers either.

The Jaguars are in the midst of their second season as full-fledged member in the FBS and their first in the Sun Belt Conference (ah, remember those days Hilltopper fans?). The 2013 season started off rocky, with a 22-21 home loss to FCS opponent Southern Utah (Thunderbird pride), but the Jags found their mojo down in the Mercedes-Benz Dome last Saturday against Tulane.

Quarterback Ross Metheny put some divots in the Tulane defense - throwing for 290 yards and rushing for 75 yards with a combined four touchdowns (two passing, two rushing). The Jags collected 465 yards of total offense, the most they've ever gained against an FBS opponent. That was enough for the Virginia transfer to earn Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week honors.

The play of Metheny comes as a bit of surprise. 1.) He's not necessarily known as a dual-threat quarterback. 2.) Before last Saturday, Metheny was sharing time with fellow signal-caller Brandon Bridge, a transfer from Alcorn State who has a strong arm and tremendous speed.

Aside from the quarterbacks, South Alabama will look to utilize running back Jay Jones, who comes into Saturday's game with 20 carries for 156 yards. That's an average of 7.8 yards per carry - very dangerous when he touches the ball.

When Metheny (or Bridge) look downfield, they'll be targeting playmakers Jereme Jones (9 catches, 76 yards, 1 TD) and Shaverez Smith (7 catches, 109 yards, 1 TD).

Not to be outshined by the offense, the Jaguars defense was stellar in shutting down Tulane's running attack. The Green Wave had just 45 rushing yards on 27 carries due in large part to South Alabama's defensive line and Romelle Jones, who had 7 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 1 sack last week.

The Jags pass defense did have a tough time shutting down Tulane quarterback Nick Montana (Yes, Joe Cool's son), who picked the secondary apart going 29-for-47 for 327 yards and three touchdowns.

However, South Alabama's defense stepped up at the most crucial time, stopping Tulane on a two-point conversion attempt that sealed the victory for one of the newest members of the Sun Belt Conference.

The Jaguars are led defensively by linebacker Enrqe Williams (15 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack), defensive end Alex Page (7 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks), safety Charles Watson (14 tackles), and ball-hawking cornerback Qudarius Ford (14 tackles, 3 pass break-ups).

The depth chart along the defensive line is thin, with Randon Carnathan suffering an Achilles injury and Jerome McClain a concussion last week. McClain is listed as probable and will likely play when the Hilltoppers enter Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Saturday night.

Place: Mobile, Alabama

Time: 6:30 p.m. (cst) on ESPN3

Keys to a Hilltopper victory

- Free your mind of the Tennessee game. By all accounts from this week's practices and press conferences, the players and coaches are focused on South Alabama and put their performance in Knoxville to bed.

- Unleash the monsters. As previously mentioned, the Jaguars defensive line is depleted but performed quite well against Tulane's running game. While the Hilltoppers passing game should thrive regardless, it will perform like a well-oiled Bugatti if the three-head monsters of Andrews, Allen, and Simpson are unleashed.

- Containing the quarterbacks. The Tops are facing quarterbacks with dual-threat abilities, the defense had their troubles with Kentucky's Jalen Whitlow, who broke off a couple of big runs when plays broke down. The linebackers and secondary will have to keep their heads on a swivel Saturday night.

- Passing game efficiency. Brandon Doughty had a rough outing last week, it will be important for him to be efficient and get his confidence back. Leading the offense to a scoring drive to start the game should do the trick.

Prediction: WKU gets back on track, 38-9.



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