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Updated: Wednesday, 29 Aug 2012, 3:48 PM CDT
Published : Wednesday, 29 Aug 2012, 3:47 PM CDT
MOBILE, Ala. (WALA ) - It might be two days later than previously scheduled, but the University of South Alabama football program will begin the second of a two-year transition to the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly NCAA I-A) level when it opens the 2012 campaign on Saturday.
The Jaguars will face Texas-San Antonio in their season opener, with the contest scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m. at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The two schools were originally set to play Thursday evening, but Hurricane Isaac forced the event to be shifted.
It’s the fourth time in as many years that USA will begin the season with a home contest; in the previous three games, it has outscored the opposition by a cumulative 106-13 total in opening the campaign with a victory. The Jaguars have an all-time mark of 19-1 in Mobile in their first three seasons of competition.
“I just think we’re anxious,” explained junior defensive lineman Montavious Williams. “After going against the offense week after week, just butting heads with those guys, I’m ready to get under somebody else’s skin.”
The game will be the second in a home-and-home series between the two schools. The Jags earned a 30-27 double-overtime victory in San Antonio on Oct. 8 last fall, overcoming a seven-point halftime deficit in the process. Demetre Baker — who would finish with a game-high 87 yards on just 11 carries — tied the game 17-17 midway through the third quarter with a 21-yard touchdown run, then scored the game-winner from 25 yards out on USA’s first snap in the second overtime.
Kendall Houston gained 72 yards on 19 attempts as well, as the Jaguars held a 175-146 rushing advantage, while C.J. Bennett completed 11-of-17 passes for another 176 yards. Both Jeremé Jones and Bryant Lavender caught two passes in that contest, making them the top returning receivers for the Jags.
Although USA is moving to a spread formation under first-year offensive coordinator Robert Matthews, all of those individuals are expected to contribute on Saturday.
The wide receiving corps will be strengthened by the return of T.J. Glover, who sat out last fall, and freshman Cameron Broadnax, while juniors Corey Besteda and Corey Waldon will also see time.
Greg Hollinger and Wes Saxton should contribute to the attack as well at the tight end position.
“The new offense is a fast-paced spread offense. We like to control the tempo of the game,” stated Lavender, who is also entering his junior season. “We look much more polished, ready to go and more sound offensively. From the offensive linemen picking up who they need to pick up, receivers blocking and catching the ball, quarterbacks making their checks and reads, all cylinders are going and we’re ready to ride.”
In last year’s game, seniors Jake Johnson and B.J. Scott paced USA with 12 and 11 stops, respectively — Johnson’s total included three of the Jags’ seven tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Enrique Williams chipped in with eight tackles, Gabe Loper had six and Clifton Crews forced two fumbles while recording three stops including a sack.
Crews also blocked a 26-yard field-goal attempt as time expired in regulation to send the game into overtime.
Up front, seven of the eight slots among the Jaguars’ four linemen will be manned by seniors or juniors. Andy Dalgleish, Montavious Williams and Randon Carnathan will man the interior, with Anthony Taylor, Alex Page, Romelle Jones and Pat Moore expected to contribute as ends. In the backfield, USA will look to junior-college transfers Darrius Morrow and Tyrell Pearson to join Scott and Alonzo Long as probable starters on Saturday.
The Roadrunners — who would go on to complete their inaugural season of football with a 4-6 mark — did gain 409 yards of total offense in last year’s meeting between the two programs. Eric Soza paced the attack, throwing for 263 yards and two scores on 15-of-22 passing, adding a team-best 48 yards on the ground. Kam Jones posted five receptions for 103 yards to lead all players in both categories, and Evans Okotcha added 70 yards on three catches; both caught a touchdown pass.
The UTSA defense should be led by linebacker Steven Kurfehs, who was credited with a game-best 12 tackles in last year’s meeting. He is one of nine starters coming back for the Roadrunners on that side of the ball.
“Last year’s game is gone; whether we won or not doesn’t matter,” observed USA head coach Joey Jones. “Texas-San Antonio is a very well-coached football team. Last year, they ran a lot of different schemes offensively. They really did a lot of things and did them well. But I’m just very impressed with their coaching and the discipline of their kids.
“You would expect that with it being the second year of their program that they are going to improve tremendously.”
The Ladd-Peebles Stadium parking lot will open at 8 a.m. for tailgating, with the Jaguar Prowl scheduled to go by the South end of the stadium beginning at 10:40 a.m. Gates will open to the public at 11 a.m.
Shuttles will be running
from the Bel Air Mall parking lot south of Target and J.C. Penney starting at 9 a.m., with the cost $2.50 for a round-trip ticket. They will provide continuous loop service to and from the stadium until 90 minutes after the end of the contest.
Tickets for the USA-UTSA game can be purchased in advance by either ordering online at www.usajaguars.com or calling (251) 461-1USA (1872) by noon on Friday. The Ladd-Peebles Stadium ticket office will open at 10 a.m. on the day of the game.
Season-ticket packages for as low as $50 and flex plans are still available, while single-game ticket prices start as low as $10.
“Most starters are back for both sides, but it’s still the first game for both teams,” Jones commented. “The team that handles situations early in the game will probably win the game. There are going to be some negative things that probably happen to both teams, and how those things are handled is going to be a big factor in my opinion.”
-- USA media relations