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Updated: Tuesday, 11 Sep 2012, 4:24 PM CDT
Published : Tuesday, 11 Sep 2012, 4:24 PM CDT
MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - When the University of South Alabama football team visits North Carolina State Saturday, it will be facing an opponent not only with the same record after two games but coming off an outing dominated by defenses.
Both the Jaguars and Wolfpack picked up their first victories of the season last weekend in low-scoring affairs, as USA defeated Nicholls State 9-3 at home while N.C. State earned a 10-7 victory at Connecticut. For the Jags, it was the first time in three-plus seasons that they have been held below 10 points as well as without a touchdown. The Pack’s point total was its lowest in a victory since the 1999 season opener, and the fewest they have scored on the road in a win since 1968.
The two will meet for the second consecutive season when USA travels to Raleigh for a 5 p.m. (CDT) kickoff at Carter-Finley Stadium. Last fall, the Wolfpack handed the Jaguars their first-ever loss, 35-13, behind 274 yards passing and four touchdowns from Mike Glennon.
It was also the Jags’ first meeting with an NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision school.
“We went up there and played a really good football game,” said USA head coach Joey Jones. “I thought we went out there and went toe-to-toe with them. Our kids are very competitive and want to be in these type of situations. You want to get into an atmosphere like you see in Raleigh. I’ll never forget walking out onto the field last year and how exciting it was to be in that atmosphere. Our kids are looking forward to it.”
The two squads just played contests in which special teams had a key role. Michel Chapuseaux accounted for a career-high three field goals — connecting from 19, 21 and 34 yards — to supply all the points the Jaguars would need; the senior has made 4-of-5 attempts on the season, leading the team with 16 points. Scott Garber averaged 43.6 yards per punt as well, with two kicks downed inside the Colonel 20-yard line and a career-long 69-yard effort included among his seven punts. In the return game, T.J. Glover ranks second in the Sun Belt Conference with averages of 39 yards per kick and 15 yards per punt return.
Wil Baumann punted nine times for the Pack against UConn, with three downed inside the 20-yard line while averaging nearly 39 yards per kick, and Niklas Slade provided the final margin of victory with a 40-yard field goal that were the only points scored before the intermission.
Jake Johnson posted eight tackles, a total that included 2½ behind the line of scrimmage, in leading a unit that surrendered just 118 yards of total offense to the Colonels. He paces the Jags with 16 stops and is second with three tackles for loss.
Enrique Williams also has a double-digit tackle total in 2012 with 13 after he was credited with five stops in the NSU victory, and Pat Moore also made five tackles against the Colonels while setting school game records with 3½ stops for loss and 2½ sacks. Darrius Morrow and Tyrell Pearson both have been credited with eight tackles in their first two games with the program, with the former among the SBC leaders with three passes defensed and the latter breaking up his first pass on NSU’s last play from the USA-18 in the final minute of regulation.
The Jaguars are allowing 102.5 yards per game on the ground and 258 overall after two games.
In last season’s match-up between the two schools, Johnson was credited with a team-high eight tackles with two behind the line, B.J. Scott recorded seven stops and Williams had six. Romelle Jones’ two tackles were both sacks of Glennon, as USA got to the Wolfpack quarterback four times.
NCSU has given up an average of 113 yards per game rushing in its first two contests after limiting the Huskies to just 35 on 32 carries. Earl Wolff leads the unit with 25 stops — he’s also one of three players to have an interception as well — with Brandan Bishop and Sterling Lucas both supplying 17 tackles. Bishop made nine stops and intercepted a pass against the Jaguars last fall, and Wolff collected eight tackles in the contest as well.
“I think they [N.C. State] are better defensively this year,” Jones observed. “Their defensive front seems more active. They lost a couple of NFL guys at linebacker, but they replaced them with a couple of good ones. They are very well-coached and do a good job with their schemes.”
The Jags are averaging just under 300 yards per game of offense through two outings this fall. Demetre Baker and Kendall Houston have done the bulk of the work on the ground with 52 of the 58 rushing attempts by running backs, with Baker leading the team in both games after gaining 75 yards on 20 attempts against the Colonels last time out.
It was Houston, however, who ran for 117 yards on 18 carries in Raleigh a year ago.
C.J. Bennett and Ross Metheny both received significant playing time in the NSU contest; the former completed 11-of-20 attempts for 111 yards while the latter was 6-of-10 passing for 58. Each led at least one scoring drive.
They have shared the wealth among
the Jaguar receiving corps, as five individuals have made at least four catches thus far this season including four — Glover, Greg Hollinger, Jeremé Jones and Bryant Lavender — who are tied for the team lead with five. In last season’s game with the Pack, both Jones and Corey Waldon had a career-best five receptions as Bennett finished 17-of-32 for 182 yards through the air.
Glennon — who was 17-of-20 passing with four touchdowns against USA last September — is completing 55.3 (42-of-76) percent of his attempts thus far this year, recording 492 yards and two scores including a 46-yard touchdown pass to Bryan Underwood midway through the third quarter last week that put N.C. State up 10-0 at the time.
Tobias Palmer leads the squad with nine catches while Quintin Payton has a team-best 177 receiving yards. Mustafa Greene paces a trio of running backs with 101 yards on the ground, although Tony Creecy and James Washington have the Wolfpack’s only two rushing touchdowns to date.
“Offensively, it starts with their quarterback,” Jones said. “He’s very efficient, and they do a good job moving the ball down the field and are patient with their play calls. Our defense is looking forward to the challenge of playing them. They do a good job with run-pass balance; they can throw the ball underneath and downfield, and they can run the football.
“They put some pressure on you defensively to make sure you cover all parts of the field.”
The Jaguars’ first two games this season have also been rematches with previous opponents. USA has defeated the Colonels twice now, though has split two meetings with Texas-San Antonio after falling 33-31 on a 51-yard field goal in the final half-minute opening weekend. In this instance with USA going on the road, Jones believes that last year’s trip will be beneficial to the Jags.
“I think it will help, the fact that we did play there last year,” he stated. “But I always say that it doesn’t matter where you play, you play between the lines. Our kids will be ready to play no matter what, and that’s one thing we pride ourselves on. One thing we can control is ourselves — how hard and how well we play.
“I thought we walked out last year as confident as a team could be,” added Jones. “It wasn’t a deal where we were star struck by the lights or the fact that it was our first FBS opponent. Our kids came to play — that’s what I like about our team — and I expect them to play well this year.”
-USA media services