Conference opener pits Eagles against South Alabama

Hayden Boudreaux

By Hayden Boudreaux

The George-Anne staff

After a spectacular performance last weekend the Georgia Southern football team will face off against South Alabama University in both team’s first game in the Sun Belt Conference this season.

In week one, the Jaguars grabbed a 23-13 victory against Kent State after nearly allowing a comeback with less than two minutes left in the game, before a late touchdown pulled them ahead. This week they are coming into the game frustrated after a 35-3 loss against Mississippi State. After some early momentum including a field goal and an early forced fumble, the Bulldogs of Mississippi State quickly pulled away.

The Jag’s offense this season has been a series of plays out of the shotgun and pistol formations. On third and short and goal line situations the Jaguars will move into a pistol with two tight ends pulled behind the tackles and try to run the ball right at their opponent. They also aren’t afraid to air it long to try and establish an early lead. This was seen in a 58 yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Brandon Bridge against Kent State.

Bridge has seen the most snaps for South Alabama. He has thrown 36 of 64 with 364 yards and one touchdown. He likes to scramble and has picked up 96 yards on the ground but has been brought down for 48 yards in the backfield, giving him only 48 rushing yards for the season. His favorite targets include senior receivers Jereme Jones and Shavarez Smith. Jones leads the team with 10 catches and 93 yards but Smith has pulled in seven of his own, including one touchdown.

The Jaguars have switched between senior running backs Jay Jones and Kendall Houston behind their fairly young offensive line. Jones has taken the bulk of the carries and has 113 yards on the season with two touchdowns. Houston is averaging four yards per carry, and with his 5”10, 230lbs frame he is more of a traditional fullback for the offense.

Defensively, the Jaguars are weaker than NC State and Georgia Tech on the line. Their defensive secondary is quick but has shown poor high tackling as well as an extreme vulnerability to short passes. Their line backing core is the heart of their defense. They pride themselves on stopping the run with solid tackling, but are also weak in covering tight ends and players out of the backfield.

Senior linebacker Maleki Harris has been one of the biggest producers on defense thus far with 18 tackles and two forced fumbles, one of which came against Mississippi State. The other inside linebacker is Davin Hawkins who also has 18 tackles on the year including one sack and a safety against Kent State. Senior cornerback Montell Garner is their main threat in the secondary. Garner has nine tackles and the only interception for the Jaguars.

Sophomore Eagle quarterbacks Kevin Ellison and Favian Upshaw will have a chance to show off their arms this week in the short passing game. The linebackers will be keying on the run to try and stop sophomore running back Matthew Brieda who is currently tied for fifth in the NCAA for rushing touchdowns and has racked up 268 yards on the ground.

Senior linebacker Edwin Jackson and the Eagle defense is undoubtedly frustrated after allowing 42 points from Georgia Tech. Their experience stopping the run will be a great benefit, but a big game will be expected from senior safety Deion Stanley and the rest of the secondary to neutralize the Jaguar passing attack.

The Eagles have impressed everyone so far this season and come into this game with a humble swagger. They know they can put up points and keep their opponents from scoring but the two close losses remind them they are not invincible. On paper Georgia Southern has the upper hand, but with most of the starters from South Alabama playing in their final season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them put up an aggressive battle. The game is scheduled for a late 6:30 p.m. kickoff this Saturday in Mobile, Ala.