South Alabama looks to build upon their offensive improvements and to add to their road winning streak as they travel to face Appalachian State in Boone, NC on Saturday.
The Jaguars came into the game against Idaho last weekend scoring only nine points in the previous two games and only 16 points in the previous 10 quarters of football. They scored 20 in the first half against the Vandals and added two second-half touchdowns to turn away an attempted rally.
The only time the Jaguar offense looked poor was about midway through the third quarter until the end of the quarter. Two turnovers on back-to-back possessions, which could have been more costly than they were. The first was an interception at the Jaguar 30 which was converted into seven points. The second, a fumble at the Jaguar 44 resulted in a missed field goal attempt after they drove into the red zone and set themselves back with a penalty.
Next up are the Mountaineers, who joined the Sun Belt Conference over the summer along with Georgia Southern, but have not fared as well as the Mountaineers so far. Their record, 1-3 overall and 0-1 in conference play, does not show how well they are playing.
App. State lost to Michigan to open the season in a blow-out, but they played the Wolverines very close through most of the first half. They lost to Southern Miss on a blocked extra point. Then they lost on the road against rival Georgia Southern 34-14 in a short turnaround week in a Thursday night game.
Statistically their offense ranks around the middle of the conference but they struggle with red zone conversions. Defensively they are tied for second place with the Jags in total defense and they are tops in the conference by only allowing opponents to convert just under 40% of their third down opportunities. They have only made one of four field goal attempts on the season.
The Jaguars defense has played well this season but hopefully last weeks performance against Idaho was not a fluke. And the players understand they much play better, eliminate big plays and play physical in order to win.
The Jags will have to do a better job of turnovers as they are -1 on the season while the Mountaineers are +2. With their good pursuit and convergence on the ball, the offense will have to finish off their runs and protecting the ball.
But bottom line, the offense must execute.
Georgia Southern plays well on both sides of the ball but sit at 1-3, 0-1 in conference play. Last week the Mountaineers offense struggled to get anything going. Tyler Lamb started at quarterback and only completed 23-of-42 passes for 256 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. That give Lamb four interceptions to three touchdowns on the season. Kameron Bryant, who is 18-of-36 on the season for 207 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, could see some playing time if Lamb continues to struggle.
Appalachian State has two players the Jaguar defense will look to contain. Running back Marcus Cox has rushed 63 times for 319 yards and five touchdown. Wide receiver Simms McElfresh leads the team in both catches with 24 and receiving yards with 238. McElfresh has been a come up big for the Mountaineers in the red zone with four touchdowns.
Brandon Bridge has only completed 52% of his passes this season and will face a secondary that leads the conference with seven interceptions. Five of them are accounted for by two players, Joel Ross has three and Doug Middleton has two.
Shavarez Smith was Bridge's go-to target against the Vandals with six catches for 44 yards. Wes Saxton, who has been quiet this season, caught three passes for only 18 yards. Jay Jones went over 100 yards rushing for the second time this season with 17 carries for 105 yards.
Look for the Jaguars to come out focused and ready to play on the road again. The coaches will look to give Bridge some high percentage passes to build his confidence early. I keep saying this and one week it will happen, but I expect Xavier Johnson to get in and contribute more. Anticipate a close one but the Jaguars should pull out a win. My score prediction: 27-21.