Let’s get the details over with first, because … really … all the touchdowns and yardage totals just get in the way of the game's real story.
South Alabama beat Louisburg (N.C.) College 41-7 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium Saturday behind 139 yards rushing and three touchdowns from Brandon Ross, short TD runs each from Anthony Mostella and Santuan McGee, and a six-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Myles Gibbon to Kevin Helms.
All this offense was bolstered by a USA defense that allowed the 18th-ranked junior college team in the country just 52 yards rushing and 170 yards passing.
Attendance: 15,754 people sat patiently in suddenly chilly October temperatures to watch this massacre.
Now, on to that more important story I was talking about …
When Jaguars Coach Joey Jones’ team took the field for the first time back in September to kick off USA’s inaugural football season, he knew he had athletes with heart, but he didn’t really know how much heart.
He knew he had guys who loved football, but he didn’t know that level of love.
Four wins and 158 points later, Jones now knows one very important fact about his undefeated Jaguars that he had no clue about two months ago.
“We don’t get frustrated,” he said. “We don’t get shaken up in a game. We make adjustments and respond to adversity.”
Saturday’s momentary adversity, maybe the first glimmer of opposition the Jags have had all year, came in the form of a Hurricanes team that had lost only once in six games this season.
They had a quarterback with a big-time arm, an elusive receiver being courted by at least five Division I programs and a defense that had allowed only 70 points all season.
Suddenly the Jags found themselves in a dogfight in the first quarter and could only muster a 7-0 lead on Mostella’s five-yard TD run at period’s end.
Very, very unfamiliar territory, but on the sidelines the coaching staff was cool.
Jones said the reason was simple.
“No matter the opponent we don’t change anything about the way we prepare for a game,” he said.
With that in mind USA reeled off three second-quarter scores behind two violent, physical Ross TD runs and Gibbon’s connection with Helms for a 27-0 lead at the break.
After that, it was all over but the hum of bus engines warming up as the defense turned up the heat and shut down shifty Hurricanes receiver Jameze Massey and quarterback Karl-David Birkenfeld until his one-yard TD run with 10 seconds left in the third quarter gave Louisburg its only points of the night.
Jones said his team is fully aware of its personality and … more importantly … knows where it’s heading.
“We know we’re not a Division I team yet,” he said in reference to their play against a schedule of mostly junior college foes this season, before upping the ante with stronger opponents in 2010 and 2011.
“But!” he added with emphasis, “We’re way ahead of where we should be.
“All we can do is go out and work and get better.
“We have come to a point where we’re achieving close to (our) full potential.”