MONROE, La. (WALA) - Jeremé Jones matched a University of South Alabama football program season record with his performance Saturday against Sun Belt Conference leader Louisiana-Monroe. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, Brent Leonard equalled a Warhawk game standard as well.
Jones caught two touchdown passes, giving him a team-leading five on the season, however Leonard had four touchdown receptions to help lift the Warhawks to a 38-24 league victory at Malone Field.
Leonard finished with nine catches for 126 yards and Kolton Browning completed 23-of-35 attempts for 250 yards while racking up 291 yards of total offense as ULM improved to 6-2 and 4-0 in the Sun Belt with their fifth win in a row.
Jones recorded career highs with seven receptions for 62 yards, with his second touchdown catch tying the school season record first set by Courtney Smith in 2009. Demetre Baker collected his first 100-yard rushing game of the season after carrying 14 times for 115 yards for the Jags (2-6, 1-3 SBC).
"We played pretty good football for three quarters, and we played tough. ULM is a very good football team," explained Jaguar head coach Joey Jones. "I'm proud of the way we played for three quarters, but they took the game under control a little bit in the fourth quarter. Their quarterback and receivers made some great plays. There were some things we could have done better, but I'm proud of where we are and what we accomplished today. We have to be honest with ourselves; the negative things that happened, if we fix them, we're probably in the game even more. But the positive side of it is we're pretty close to a team that is really good in the conference, and is probably the top team in the league.
"Overall, I'm proud of the team. We just have to work on us. We'll start fixing some things here and there, and we're going to be there."
Enrique Williams was credited with 11 total stops — his third outing in a row in double figures — to lead the USA defense, which held the Warhawks 50 yards below their season average entering play. Jake Johnson collected nine tackles including two for loss, Terrell Brigham had eight solo stops, an interception he returned 18 yards in the opening quarter and another pass broken up, while Clifton Crews and B.J. Scott both posted six total tackles with two of those behind the line of scrimmage.
Gerrand Johnson paced the Warhawks with eight stops, and Isaiah Newsome and Malcolm Edmond both recorded seven as ULM limited the Jags to 360 total yards.
In addition to Jones' performance, Bryant Lavender caught six balls for 33 yards and Gabe Loper had three receptions for 48 more. Ross Metheny was 21-of-41 passing for 211 yards, adding a career-long 21-yard run as well. On the ground, Baker's 100-yard effort was the first by a Jaguar since he posted 111 yards on Oct. 29 a year ago in a win over Henderson (Ark.) State.
"We had a little different game plan going into this week," Metheny stated. "We knew they were going to pack the box and that we would have to throw the ball a little more. We executed well. There are obviously things you can go back and fix, and we're going to go back and look at film and make some corrections. But we're pleased with the direction this offense is going. We would like to put some more points on the board and get a ‘W' – we just have to keep working."
Je'Ron Hamm, Cortney Davis and Rashon Ceasar all collected three receptions for ULM, with Hamm pacing the trio with 41 yards. The Warhawks gained 170 yards on the ground, led by Monterrell Washington's 59 on 19 carries. Mitchell Bailey ran twice for 44 yards, Browning gained 41 and Jyruss Edwards posted 25 on nine attempts.
Trailing by seven at the break, USA evened the score with a 13-play, 93-yard drive midway through the third quarter, tying the contest 21-21 with four-and-a-half minutes left in the period on a two-yard Trey Fetner touchdown run. Metheny picked up first downs on the possession — which took five-and-a-half minutes off the clock — by drawing a pass interference call, hitting Lavender for a 10-yard gain then rushing for 21 yards. After Baker moved the chains with a two-yard carry on fourth-and-one, Metheny scrambled for six yards then drew another flag for pass interference in the end zone to set up Fetner's score.
But ULM would pull away with the next 17 points, needing only two minutes to regain the lead on a 32-yard Bailey touchdown run down the right sideline, the longest rush of his career. The Warhawks took over at midfield following a 21-yard return by Davis and a 15-yard penalty on the Jags. Browning found Ceasar for nine yards to move the chains, while Bailey's scoring rush took place on third-and-five.
The lead doubled just over a minute into the fourth period, as — after a DaCorris Ford interception at the ULM-37 — Browning hit Leonard twice in a row, first for a gain of 39 yards before hitting him for his school-record-tying fourth scoring catch on a 24-yard completion.
Justin Manton tacked on a 35-yard field goal
to up the ULM lead to 38-21 with just under eight minutes to go in the contest, ending a nine-play, 35-yard possession, which Michel Chapuseaux matched for the Jaguars with a 27-yard effort two-and-a-half minutes later — the key play on that drive was a 48-yard pass from Metheny to Greg Hollinger.
The Jaguars opened the scoring late in the first period, moving 72 yards in four plays and 47 seconds. Two straight dropped passes left USA facing third-and-10 from its own 28-yard line, but Baker ripped a 61-yard run up the middle — the Jags' longest play from scrimmage this season — to move the ball to the ULM-11. On the next snap, Metheny found Jones open in the left corner of the end zone to give USA a 7-0 advantage with a little over three minutes left in the quarter.
Jones ended USA's next drive, one that covered 86 yards in 10 plays, with a 14-yard catch from Metheny on third-and-eight with eight-and-a-half minutes remaining in the first half. On third-and-10 from the ULM-37, Jones drew an interference penalty that moved the ball 15 yards and provided an automatic first down, then with the Jags facing another third-and-10 situation Metheny hit Loper for a 32-yard pick up that put USA in the red zone.
"It's just execution," Jones observed. "On the first one, we knew exactly what they were going to play whenever we got in that formation. We executed the play; the offensive line blocked, Ross threw a nice ball and everyone else did their job. On the second one, it was kind of a broken play. We just kept playing. Ross scrambled out [of the pocket], and I broke off my route and found the open area."
The Warhawks evened the score with just under 12 minutes to go in the half, when Browning connected with Leonard in the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the USA-3. ULM drove 81 yards in 15 plays, taking six-and-a-half minutes off the clock, with Browning finding Hamm for a 14-yard gain on the second play of the possession, then hitting Keavon Milton for 19 yards on third-and-three to move the Warhawks across midfield. Browning found Hamm again on third-and-seven, picking up 12 yards, on the final play of the first quarter.
Leonard's second score of the quarter — this one coming a minute-and-a-half before the intermission — came on a 15-yard pass from Browning on third-and-goal, evening the score for the second time, 14-14. The Warhawks worked with a short field after Manton's 55-yard punt was downed at the USA-3; ULM forced a three-and-out, and after a 22-yard punt return began the drive at the Jag 26-yard line.
After another three-and-out, ULM took over on the USA-37 when Preston Coleman blocked Scott Garber's punt. Browning found Hamm for a 15-yard gain, then picked up six more yards scrambling out of bounds at the Jaguar 16-yard line with 10 seconds remaining. Browning and Leonard connected once again, giving the Warhawks a 21-14 edge six seconds prior to the break.
USA returns home to face Florida International Saturday, with kickoff scheduled for 2:30 p.m. As part of the school's Hall of Fame Weekend, former Jaguars Juan Pierre, P.J. Walters, František Babej and Cindy Summers will be recognized on the field during halftime festivities.
For more information about South Alabama athletics, check back with www.usajaguars.com. Season tickets for all Jaguar athletic events can be purchased by calling (251) 461-1USA (1872).
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