We were focused, and we practiced hard in preparation for Jacksonville State. Practice consisted of early morning film sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, and longer practices on the other days.
We left for the game on Friday morning at about 8:00 am, and we took a detour through Chattanooga, TN. We ate lunch at the site of the 1AA national championship. Not to look ahead, but every team has goals. It gave us the opportunity to see where playing together as a team could bring us. We then continued on the six hour trip, and we stayed in Carrolton, GA, which is about an hour away form Jacksonville. It was impossible to get a hotel any closer because of the big NASCAR weekend in Talladega, AL. It was a little different getting up and driving an hour to the game, but we just needed to keep our focus.
We went into the game focused and confident. To start the game offensively, we drove down the field and scored to tie the game at 7. We moved the ball well up-field the entire game. We actually totaled about 460 yards of offense and increased our season average to 409 yards per game. Driving and making big plays is not the problem for us. Putting the ball in the end-zone without making mistakes is where our problems begin. We had two crucial turnovers in the red-zone that stopped terrific drives full of big plays and great blocking by our offensive line.
We did learn that it takes more than an offense that can move the ball to win big games. Our defense played a pretty good game and managed to not give up any huge plays. According to Coach Pannunzio, in order to win you have to play good defense, play good special teams, and not turn the ball over. We always play decent, if not great, defense; however, we turned the ball over and also played terribly on special teams. We were killed on the turnover battle as well as the field position battle. Field position is crucial, and we lost that battle by playing poorly on special teams.
Individually, I played a decent game. I blocked well and made a huge play on a wheel route down the sideline that really sparked our offense. I did make some mistakes, but those can always be corrected. I just have to keep correcting my mistakes and try not to make them twice. If I do that, things will fall in place. I played against Lamarcus Rowell. Rowell is another Auburn export, and he was an extremely sought after linebacker in high school. He is a good player, so I felt like I had something to prove. I was on punt team for this game because our protection has been poor in the last couple of games. I was happy that I had a chance to contribute to the team in other ways besides offense and field goal situations. It was really a challenge playing almost every snap on offense and staying out there to cover on punt.
We will have to protect the ball, make some adjustments on special teams, and continue to play good defense if we want this season to bear the fruits of our labor. We were missing a couple of key guys like Nick Turner, and we also missed Ronald Lane in the second half. I think we have the talent all over the board to make up for it. Injuries are going to occur, and when they do, guys are going to have to step up and make plays. Danny Rumley stepped up this game and made some big plays for us. Hopefully, we will find some new rising stars in the games to come. Our next game is Homecoming against Samford on October 9. They are a good fundamental team, but we should be able to play stride for stride with them if we play well and protect the ball.