For much of Saturday night South Alabama appeared as though they would be 2-0 for the first time in nine years at the expense of a Tulane team that was favored by ten points going in.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Jaguars decided to make a change that altered the trajectory of the game, at least for a while. Starting QB Desmond Trotter, who lost the Jags’ only fumble, was pulled and backup Chance Lovertich was sent in. Lovertich went on to finish the night with 249 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, though, he orchestrated two scoring drives in the second quarter.
At halftime South Alabama led the Wave 14-6 and from there it only got worse for Tulane. On their opening drive of the second half, the Jaguars marched 75 yards for their third score of the night courtesy of running back Carlos Davis. After the Greenies failed on another fourth down try, Jags kicker Diego Guajardo tacked on a 49-yard field goal. Tulane was staring down the barrel of a 24-6 deficit. It was gut check time.
Up to this point the Wave’s only score of the night came from the legs of Cameron Carroll. The sophomore running back came alive again in the third and scampered in from 12 yards out to cut the South Alabama lead to 11. Two drives later, the Wave punched it again thanks to Howard. A failed two-point conversion attempt ensured they still trailed by five but momentum was squarely on Tulane’s side.
Lovertich proceeded to engineer another lengthy, time-chewing drive that munched nearly eight minutes off the clock. The Wave defense, however, forced yet another punt and gave the ball back to the offense with 5:06 remaining.
Howard wasted no time leading the Tulane offense down the field and Amare Jones capped the 67-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown scamper. Tyrick James hauled in the two-point pass and for the first time all night, the Green Wave led but only by three.
Now trailing 27-24, Lovertich did his best to rally the Jags but the Tulane defense, and more specifically, Cam Sample thwarted any attempt. Sample quite literally sacked Lovertich with one hand on second down and set up South Alabama with third and forever. They failed to convert and had to give the ball up yet again.
It wasn’t until South Alabama was flagged for a rare leaping penalty on Tulane’s next punt, though, that the game was officially over. The controversial call gave the Wave the first down and the win.
The Good: South Alabama may really have something in Lovertich. The junior shined when called upon, completing 18 of his 30 pass attempts and averaged over eight yards per throw. He also threw no interceptions. If the Jags can get this week’s Lovertich and last week’s Trotter every game they will have a real one-two punch under center for the remainder of the season.
The Green Wave have to be thrilled with their defensive performance down the stretch and specifically the play of their line. Sample and Patrick Johnson terrorized the Jaguars offense for much of the night as the unit recorded five sacks (four of which came from this duo). If the Wave can continue to get to opposing QBs like that all season, they will be a force to be reckoned with this fall.
The Bad: The Jags will need to find a way to get their ground game going. On Saturday they mustered up only 78 yards rushing compared to Tulane’s 200. They also failed to break the century mark last week as they only had 95 yards against Southern Miss who conversely had 163. Being outran like that is usually not a formula for success and it certainly wasn’t in this one.
The Greenies need to be better on third down (on both sides of the ball). Tulane’s offense went just 2/12 (16.7%) while on defense they allowed South Alabama to convert 9/18 (50%). That math usually won’t work out in their favor the way it did in this game.
The Ugly: Penalties proved to be unusually cruel to the Jaguars here. They were flagged eight times for 65 yards but none were more painful than that last one. It isn’t very often we can point to penalties as directly sealing a team’s fate but here we absolutely can.
While the win is nice for Tulane, there is absolutely no reason they should have had to claw out of an 18-point hole to get it. The offense looked stagnant for much of the game and they cannot rely on their comeback abilities week in and week out to be a consistent threat in the AAC.
Up Next: The Jags (1-1) will now prepare to host the UAB Blazers out of C-USA on September 24 in Mobile. The Blazers will also have some extended time off following a tough loss to Miami (FL).
Tulane (1-0) will return to New Orleans to face Navy next Saturday in an early conference matchup. The Midshipmen will not have played since losing 55-3 to BYU last Monday night.