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September 15, 2013

Jaguars stifle Hilltoppers

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It happened again. Western Kentucky out-gained South Alabama by 13 total yards, had 26 first downs compared the Jags' 18, converted 9-of-17 third down attempts, and still found themselves on the wrong side of 31-24 final score Saturday night in Mobile, Alabama.

A lot of people will argue that turnovers were once again the difference maker - that's a valid point.

Especially, when you consider the Tyrell Pearson interception of Brandon Doughty late in the fourth quarter that set South Alabama up at WKU's 16-yard line - Pearson essentially scored a touchdown but went "Deion Sanders" at the 1-yard line as he strolled in the endzone, forcing a taunting penalty.

Four-plays later, Trey Fetner scored from 1-yard out and put the Jaguars up 31-24 for good. WKU had one last gasp, but Pearson picked off Doughty's desperation heave as time expired. Jubilation ensued for the Jaguars, disappointment set in for the Hilltoppers.

While the late interception was the game changer, there were other factors that doomed WKU's outcome - dropped passes, penalties, and struggles containing dual-threat quarterbacks continue to haunt the Tops three games into the 2013 season.

Freshman wide receiver Nicholas Norris had a breakout performance with 7 grabs for 95 yards and two touchdowns, but even he had a couple of drops. The biggest drop, or whiff, came from another freshman receiver, Taywan Taylor, who let (what would have been a 27-yard touchdown) pass slide right through his outstretched hands.

With Norris and Taylor, you take the good with the bad - they're young, they're still learning, they'll be really good. Heck, they already are.

Western Kentucky was flagged for eight penalties that cost them 50-yards, but something odd happened in the second half - numerous false start penalties were called on the veteran offensive line that turned 3rd and 5's into 3rd and 10's.

With a 21-10 halftime deficit, South Alabama took a different approach in the second half with dual-threat quarterback Brandon Bridge, who burned the WKU defense with his arms and legs. Bridge was the signal-caller on three drives, which resulted in a field goal, a touchdown, and another field goal.

By the time Bridge was done, the Jags were even with the Hilltoppers at 24 apiece and then the turnover game took over.

A South Alabama blitz gets too Doughty as he throws, Alex Page grabs the ball as it falls to the ground for an interception.

On the Jaguars ensuing possession, the Hilltopper defense creates a turnover after Jonathan Dowling stripped wide receiver Jereme Jones as he was fighting for extra yardage.

Then, the costly interception by Doughty that Tyrell Pearson ran back (and taunted, and got flagged for a 15-yard penalty) that set South Alabama up with great field position for the go-ahead score.

After scoring only three points in the final 30 minutes, there are many lessons to be learned from the Hilltoppers second half performance.

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