One of Zach Brownell's 3 interceptions (McDuffie)
Three games. Three wins.
But … a different style of play in each victory.
Welcome to Jaguars football.
One thing’s become apparent about South Alabama in its first-ever football season … the Jags play like a boxer feeling out an opponent in early rounds, then use what they’ve learned to eventually deliver the knockout blow.
This time it was Georgia Military Academy going down for the count, in front of 15,183 fans at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, as the relentless Jags used a vice-like defense to carve out a 31-3 decision over the best team they’ve faced so far.
“They really didn’t do anything that surprised us (on defense),” said linebacker Justin Dunn, who finished with 11 total tackles (five solo).
“We were ready for anything they did. We were prepared and played our butts off today.”
En route to running their unbeaten record to 3-0, the Jaguars used speed on both sides of the ball in week one to bedazzle a much larger Hargrave Military Academy team, 30-13.
They followed that performance three weeks later on their quirky schedule by whipping physically out-manned Army Prep, 56-0.
But Saturday defensive back Zach Brownell returned one of his three interceptions for a touchdown, Clifton Crews scooped up a fumble and ran it back for another score, and emerging star running back Brandon Ross added TD runs of seven and 10 yards.
It was a game billed as one USA would have to reach down deep to win against one of the finest junior college teams in the country.
But that anticipated match-up never materialized.
The Bulldogs looked like a formidable team from the start, trotting out good looking athletes that had size and an attitude that was even noticeable at the coin flip.
But USA’s Ralph Turner returned the opening kickoff straight up the gut to the Jags’ 49, before being stopped by a touchdown-saving tackle from the Bulldogs’ Dale Peterman.
Make no mistake, though, the tone was set and the beat-down was on.
“It was a great effort,” said USA Head Coach Joey Jones.
“We played a solid football game. Our kids came (to practice) and worked hard. It speaks well for our coaching staff and our preparation.”
After Turner’s return, the Jags’ opening drive bogged down via penalties and good run defense from the Bulldogs, forcing a USA punt into the end zone.
But when Jags’ cornerback Jerron Mitchell de-helmeted Tobias Palmer following a two-yard pass reception, USA seemed to smell blood and forced a punt from the 27.
Each team held serve through the opening period as both went scoreless on each possession, and USA suddenly … and uncharacteristically … found itself in a real football game.
But on the second play of the second quarter Ross scored on his seven-yard romp, and Michael Chapuseaux tacked on the PAT for a 7-0 lead.
The Jags got a gift right before halftime when Brownell returned an errant Chris Hart throw 26 yards for a TD and a 14-0 lead at the break.
But in the third quarter Crews’ 10-yard return of a Chris hart fumble made it 21-zip, before Evan Kay booted a 31-yard field goal for the Bulldogs’ only points of the game with 1:22 left in the period.
Ross’s second TD run made it 28-3 early into the fourth quarter, but the Jags may have suffered a big loss seconds later when the steady Chapuseaux was roughed on the point-after, injuring his right knee and had to be assisted off the field.
Chapuseaux was on crutches on the sidelines for the remainder of the game, but afterward Jones said he didn’t think the injury was “that serious,” although acknowledging that he’d have to wait until further tests were done to determine the true extent of any damage.
Still, the biggest positive USA will take out of this game as it prepares for the first back-to-back contest this season … against Louisburg (N.C.) Junior College at 4 o’clock next Saturday … is that they seem to buy into whatever Jones is selling.
In other words, they obviously got the message in practice that Georgia Military was not to be taken lightly.
“Coach Bryant always said you get a little bit better (in practice) every day,” said Jones, in reference to what legendary Alabama Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant taught him during his days as an ALL-SEC wide receiver for the Crimson Tide.
“Coaching is believing in the kids and them believing in you,” he said.
ROAD MYLES: Freshman Quarterback Myles Gibbon has no qualms about taking off and running whenever the opportunity presents itself.
“The coaches give me the green light to pull it down and run if I feel it’s there,” said Gibbon, who took off six times Saturday for 25 yards.
“The coaches have told me if I see (wide open) grass, just go.”
But does he make Jones nervous when he shifts into four-wheel drive?
“Naw,” said Jones.
“He’s got to be able to make some plays. He’s got to be able to have the football savvy to make a play.”