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South tops Troy in Battle for the Belt 24-18

Jaguars claim the first Battle of the Belt victory
Jaguars claim the first Battle of the Belt victory
Alyssa Newton

South Alabama marks the first notch on the rivalry belt after a 24-18 win over Troy.

This ending would not be a last-second thriller repeat from the last time the Jags visited the Trojans at home. South Alabama’s defense held the Troy defense in the second half before shutting down the Trojans final chance with a big fourth-and-1 stop by Akeem Lewis, followed by a Tyreis Thomas first down on a fourth-and-2 to run out the clock and seal the Jags’ victory.

Xavier Johnson was the first to open up the scoring for the rivalry game with a 1-yard touchdown run to put the Jags up early.

The Trojans got a huge, self-inflicted gift for their first touchdown drive from South Alabama as a bad punt snap put Troy on the Jags’ 11-yard line. Brandon Silvers connected with Emmanuel Thompson for  6-yard touchdown, followed by a two-point conversion from Brandon Burks to give Troy the 8-7 lead.

It didn’t take long for the Jags to answer as they drove down the field in the next possession to end it with a 17-yard touchdown to Everett to put the Jags up. Jackson grabbed his first interception of the night in the second quarter, giving the Jags great field position on the Troy 9-yard line. Clements found Everett for the second time, this one for a 6-yard touchdown and a 21-8 lead.

Troy’s Andre Flakes made a 20-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to cut the Jags’ lead to 21-15.

The two squads defenses both turned up the heat in the second quarter, with both squads adding a field goal apiece before the nail-biting final minutes where South Alabama’s defense and offense shut down any hopes for Troy.

“In my opinion this is the biggest win of the year,” South Alabama head coach Joey Jones said.

The Jags, now 3-2, outgained the Trojans 365-265, the Jags earned 160 on the ground after only seeing 45 yards last week. Johnson ended the night with 94 yard and a 1-yard touchdown run.

Cody Clements went 11-for-21 passing for 205 yards with two touchdowns to Everett. Silvers went 16-for-35 with three interceptions.

The Jags’ defense made a complete 180 from last week’s performance and really made the most impact in the game, making big stops and forcing turnovers that kept the Jags’ on top.

Kalen Jackson had his breakout game with two interceptions against the Trojans, two of the three interceptions in the Jags’ favor.

Troy’s Brandon Burks ended the night with 93 yards, one of the key players that Jones said earlier in the week that South would have to look out for.

South Alabama returns home Oct. 13 against Arkansas State, Troy faces Mississippi State at Starkville next Saturday

South Alabama Takeaways:

Oh man, oh man, not again. The Jags have gone back-to-back.

Big D: South Alabama not only broke its daze, but turned up the heat. Kaylen Jackson had two of South Alabama’s three interceptions on the night, the first time a player has had multiple interceptions in a game since 2013. The Jag defense made big stops all night, one of the biggest: the fourth-and-1 stop in the final two minutes, Akeem Lewis wrapped up Burk and ended what could have been a disastrous drive South.

Good mix of run, big plays: The Jags were not afraid to let Johnson, Thomas eat tonight. South put up 163 yards on the ground. Clements put up some of his best numbers this season. Remember the two names I dropped Friday? Everett ended the night with two touchdowns, Magee racked up 118 yards after making two 40+ bomb receptions look easy. Keep an eye on them as the two continue to blow up.

Special teams still needs work: No, I’m not referring to Aleem Sunanon either. Troy had a few (too many) long punt returns against the Jags, the longest of the night for 33-yards. On the flip side, the Jags longest return was 5 yards. The last few weeks there have been multiple close calls for turnovers on special teams, and tonight one happened during a USA punt and it ended in a Trojan score. Really need some adjustments there or I can see more woes as we continue throughout the season.

Troy takeaways:

Well, at least the Belt was in Troy for the weekend…

I told you yesterday that if the Trojan coaching staff loosened the leash on Brandon Silvers this week, the offense would be productive and points would come in bunches. Wow, I could not have been more wrong.

Silvers was indeed given that chance, and he took it and ran, tripping all over himself in the process. Silvers threw three interceptions, and it cost the Trojans big time. Enough about that though, let’s get into what stood out.

Brandon Silvers: Like I previously mentioned, Brandon Silvers was atrocious in the Trojan loss. I was extremely high on him coming in, and for good reason. The sophomore quarterback consistently makes good decisions and shows great poise when throwing the ball. The coaches had been very conservative with him coming into the game, and I guaranteed a big Trojan win if the team let him to test the South Alabama defense more than he had been allowed to in previous weeks.

Yea, sorry about that.

Silvers’ got the increase in passing attempts, but could not have looked much worse. He completed less than half of his passes and threw three interceptions, breaking a streak of 191 passing attempts without a pick.

Troy run game: Here we have another case of something standing out for negative reasons. Another one of my keys to a Trojan victory was a high yards per carry average from the running backs. Forcing the defense to respect the run game can potentially make the night easier for a quarterback, and Brandon Silvers got no help from his backfield on a night where he desperately needed it. As a team, the Trojans combined for a 3.6 yards per carry average, with star back Brandon Burks averaging a measly 3.2.

Missed opportunities: Time and time again, the Troy Trojans were given the ball in a great position to score. An excellent performance from return man Teddy Ruben set the offense up near midfield several times, but the Trojans continually failed to do anything with the opportunity. Three-and-outs were commonplace for Troy, and it cost them big.

Dropped passes: Brandon Silvers did not do anything to help himself, but his wide receivers did not do much to support their quarterback either. Silvers had several well thrown balls dropped by his intended target. The biggest was a pass to receiver Bryan Holmes that would have gotten the Troy offense six points, which just happened to be the difference in the game.