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Six Keys to South Alabama's Loss At Arkansas State

Several factors contributed to South Alabama's loss at Arkansas State but we break down six key factors to the Jaguars worst loss in their six seasons of football.

Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

What the heck happened Saturday? Let's take a look and see why South Alabama was so thoroughly outmatched from beginning to end by Arkansas State.

Injuries

The Jaguars were beat up against Lafayette and the side effect was South Alabama went to Jonesboro without the service of several starters on both sides of the ball.

Leading rusher Jay Jones was lost for the season with a torn ACL a couple weeks ago against Georgia State. In addition to him the Jags were without starters: quarterback Brandon Bridge, tight end Wes Saxton, offensive lineman Drew Dearman, linebacker Maleki Harris, and cornerback Qudarius Ford.

Throughout the week several others saw little to almost no practice time, such as reserve offensive lineman Clay Machen and starting center Joseph Scelfo.

Matters got worse towards the end of the first quarter when wide receiver Marvin Shinn suffered a broken leg on a 4th down throw into the end zone.


Turnovers

Four turnovers to be exact.

USA had only turned the ball over once in their previous four games, but three interceptions and a lost fumble in one game is hard to overcome. Those four turnovers were converted into 17 points, including a 58-yard pick six on the first play of the fourth quarter.


Quarterback play

With Bridge out with an ankle injury, second string quarterback Matt Floyd got the start. When he came in against Lafayette last week he looked quite sharp as he lead the Jaguars down to the two yard line before a fumbled exchange foiled the Jaguars attempt to retake the lead.

But Floyd did not have the game that he and the coaches had hoped this week. He was only 8-of-20 for 86 yards and two interceptions.

The coaches turned to third string quarterback Hunter Vaughn late in the game and he didn't fare much better. Vaughn went 1-of-5 for just 4 yards and an interception returned for a touchdown. However Vaughn ended up being the Jaguars leading rusher with 38 yards, so he had that going for him.


Third down conversions

The Jaguars only converted one of its 12 third-down conversion attempts against the A-State. USA was 0-of-6 on third down in the first half.


Offense

With so many starters out on offense, no one was able to step up to fill their roles. Arkansas State was able to pressure Floyd into poor throws and snuffed out each attempt to run the ball. It was like the Red Wolves had a copy of the Jaguars playbook and knew what play was being called.

South Alabama could not extend drives and give the defense a chance to rest. They could only manage 22 yards of total offense in the first half and only had 35 yards of total offense until late in the third quarter when Terrance Timmons caught a 50 yard pass.

USA's offense has been inconsistent most of the season, which has confounded coaches and fans alike.


Defense

The defense played their hearts out in the first quarter, but by the end of the first quarter they were already getting visibly tired.

Arkansas State's offense would run a play and line up over the the ball faster than any team the Jaguars had faced all season. By the end of the first quarter, the Jaguar defense had their hands on their hips trying to catch their breath. It wasn't pretty. The flood gates opened in the second quarter with A-State putting up 17 points.

There was a void in on-field leadership without Maleki Harris, the quarterback of the defense according to his coaches, and Qudarius Ford, who is arguably the best cover corner in the Jaguars secondary.


Where do they go from here

Saturday's game against Texas State has quickly become a must-win for the Jaguars if they want a realistic shot at making a bowl game this season. With three bowl tie-ins, they realistically need to finish in the top four of the conference.

Why the top four? Well, Georgia Southern is running away with the conference title but are not bowl eligible as they are playing their second and final season as a FCS transitional team.

Texas State will have two more conference games after South Alabama. They will be an underdog when they play Arkansas State but will be favored against Georgia State in the season finale. They have a very good shot to finish with at least one more win.

If South Alabama can get the win over the Bobcats, they would hold the tiebreaker if both teams finish 5-3.

This week is huge for the Jaguars. If they can't get the team healthy for Saturday will they be able to the backups ready to fill those roles?