MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - The University of South Alabama defense did everything but score Saturday, holding Nicholls State to just 118 total yards while recording three takeaways in leading the Jaguars to a 9-3 non-conference football victory over the Colonels at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
Tied 3-3 at the half, Bryson James intercepted a pass and Montavious Williams recovered a fumble, with both leading to Michel Chapuseaux field goals that would provide the final margin of victory as the Jags improved to 1-1 on the season. Jake Johnson posted a team-best eight tackles, including 2½ for loss, while Pat Moore and Enrique Williams were credited with five stops apiece. Moore led USA with 3½ stops behind the line of scrimmage, Anthony Taylor had two and Montavious Williams 1½, helping the Jaguars record 14 tackles for loss including six sacks.
The 118 yards were the fewest allowed by USA since it limited Pikeville (Ky.) to just 88 yards in opening the 2010 campaign with a 56-0 victory.
The Colonels dropped their season opener despite holding the Jags to 279 total yards, led by Jordan Piper's 12 tackles with Chris Bermond contributing 10.
"Putting pressure on the quarterback really helped us tonight," explained USA head coach Joey Jones. "I thought we played with a lot more energy on defense; it looked like the defense that I'm used to seeing."
Midway through the third quarter James intercepted a pass at the NSU-33, with Chapuseaux' 21-yard field goal five plays putting the Jaguars ahead 6-3. And early in the fourth, after the Colonels used a fumble recovery and personal foul call to move to the Jag 15-yard line, Williams recovered a fumble to end NSU's threat to tie the score or take the lead. Chapuseax would add another field, hitting from 34 yards out with 9:01 left in regulation, after USA marched 64 yards in 11 plays following Williams' recovery for the final margin of victory. The key play of the drive was a pass from Ross Metheny to T.J. Glover down the middle for a gain of 29 yards.
"My job is simple; when I'm sent onto the field I'm expected to score," Chapuseaux, who converted 3-of-4 attempts in the game, stated. "The wind was a big influence kicking north, and I adjusted the best that I could. I missed one and swore I wouldn't miss another one. I told the team to keep it up and I had their backs if they needed it."
NSU twice drove into Jaguar territory in the final half of the fourth quarter, but were unable to come up with any points. After LaQuintin Caston got the Colonels to midfield with a 31-yard rush, Enrique Williams stopped Jesse Turner for a five-yard loss on third-and-eight from the USA-48 to force a punt. NSU got the ball back at its own 42-yard line with 2:38 to go, and after Landry Klann connected with Marcus Washington for a 16-yard completion, a pass interference call on the Jags moved the ball to the USA-14. Moore sacked Klann on third down, while on fourth-and-14 from the 18-yard line Darrius Morrow deflected a pass intended for Erik Buchanan to preserve the victory.
Caston rushed 10 times for 69 yards for the Colonels, while Klann was 12-of-27 passing for 96 yards. Nick Scelfo and Washington collected three receptions each.
"Defensively, we had to step up a lot this game," James said. "We wanted a goose egg, but we had a few mistakes in the first half that we corrected at halftime. We knew Klann is more of a pocket quarterback; he doesn't like to scramble. There were different keys we had to play depending on who they [Nicholls State] had back there."
"South Alabama is good up front, they rotated eight guys in there," observed NSU head coach Charlie Stubbs. "We are kind of young up front in a couple of positions and we weren't able to substitute as freely as they did. I feel like they kind of wore us down in that area. We weren't able to really establish much of a running game, except what I could muster with LaQuinton Caston as a Wildcat quarterback, so that goes hand-in-hand. South Alabama made us one-dimensional, and we're not good enough right now in the passing game to try and win just by dropping back and throwing the ball.
"Against a defense like that, we have to play really well, execute and stay out of long-yardage situations."
In the first quarter, the two teams combined to pick up just 42 yards and three first downs. Neither team was able to move the chains until Metheney gained seven yards on third-and-six from the USA-25 with just over six minutes remaining in the period. The Jaguars were able to force three three-and-outs in the quarter, with Alex Page ending NSU's opening possession by stopping Caston for a gain of two yards on third down and Johnson sacking Klann for a loss of seven yards to stop another series.
On the other hand, NSU punter Cory Kemps' first two punts covered 53 and 40 yards, pinning USA inside its own five-yard line both times. He averaged 42.8 yards per kick on the day, with three punts downed inside the 20-yard line.
The Colonels broke a scoreless tie with a 48-yard Andrew
Dolan field goal at the 10:11 mark of the second quarter, capping an 11-play, 50-yard march that took little more than four-and-a-half minutes off the clock. USA replied with a 14-play drive — one that covered 73 yards in six minutes and 17 seconds — culminating with a 19-yard field goal from Chapuseaux that evened the score with just under four minutes left in the first half. Demetre Baker carried on three straight plays, and with gains of six, 15 and eight yards he moved the Jags to the NSU 41-yard line. An 11-yard completion from C.J. Bennett to Wes Saxton put USA in the red zone, with the Jaguars advancing to the NSU-1 when he found Jeremé Jones for a 16-yard pick-up.
But NSU was able to keep the Jaguars out of the end zone when Davin Bovie stopped Kendall Houston behind the line of scrimmage on the next snap.
Baker recorded a game- and season-high 75 yards on 20 rushes to lead the USA ground attack. Glover, Greg Hollinger and Bryant Lavender had three receptions each — Glover led all players with 43 yards — while Jones and Saxton caught two passes as well. Bennett threw for 111 yards on 11-of-20 passing, and Metheny completed 6-of-10 attempts for another 58.
"When your number is called you just have to go out there and play," commented Metheny. "You look forward to the times you get on the field, and when you do you just have to play; just trust your assignments, what you're supposed to do and what your coaches do. It's easy to make an excuse that it was a rhythm issue, but it wasn't. We just go out there and play when our number is called."
Scott Garber punted seven times, averaging 43.6 yards per effort with a pair inside in the NSU-20 highlighted by a career-long 69 yards punt flipping the field for the Jaguars midway through the opening period.
"It was big for us to win this game. We lose that game and we're reeling," stated Jones. "I told the kids, ‘A win is a win.' Ten years from now we'll look back and remember we won the football game, but we also have to be honest with ourselves and what we have to work on. We were just a little out of sync on offense, and a lot of that had to do — and I'm not making excuses — with not having film on them. When you go into a game and you haven't watched any film on them, you're not able to watch their schemes; they changed some schemes up from two years ago. The first few times we had the ball, it was on the one or two- yard line, and we kind of got started on a bad note.
"I don't think we adjusted very well, and that's something we have to look at next week."
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