Jags Punish Pikeville - What's Next?

South Alabama won their opening game in a way very reminiscent of their seven victories last year; a 56-0 drubbing of NAIA Pikeville. Unlike last year, however, the expectations of the fans and perhaps even the coaches and players have been raised to the point where this margin was no longer a surprise.

Statistically speaking, this game was a true blowout beyond the score. Pikeville managed only a total of 88 yards and averaged 1.6 yards per play against a Jag defense that kept the Bear quarterbacks off balance most of the afternoon. South Alabama presented a balanced attack that ran for 242 yards and four touchdowns and passed for 220 yards and two more scores. Two other touchdowns came courtesy of a Jereme Jones punt return and a Bryson James interception return.

The results of the game are very satisfying but, as with any team, there are elements where improvement will be expected sooner rather than later. The most glaring errors occurred in the kicking game, with Michael Chapuseaux missing two extra points and 22-yard field goal and Lawson McGlon another extra point. Establishing the running game and controlling the line of scrimmage offensively is another area where the Jags can make strides.

The Jags took to the practice field on Monday in helmets and pads and set to work on achieving these goals. The coaching staff believes they isolated and corrected the issues in the kicking game. In the practice all three kickers (including Jordan Means) were hitting their field goals and extra points and confidence is high in all three, although Chapuseaux will remain the primary kicker going forward. Expect few if any changes in the offensive line as well. The staff was not surprised to start a little sluggishly in the first game with the addition of so many new players in the two-deep depth chart. While several young offensive linemen have distinguished themselves (Melvin Meggs' name always comes up), the staff holds the experience the returning starters bring in high regard. They may not possess the size and strength of players like Meggs or Sean Kennedy, but the coaches know they can depend on them to be in the right place at the right time and do their jobs well.

Of course, there was much more positive than negative to come out of the game and nothing could be more positive than the performance of quarterbacks Myles Gibbon and CJ Bennett. They combined to go 11-14 for 205 yards and both looked very sharp. Gibbon showed how far he has matured by picking up first downs on a pair of long third downs and Bennett demonstrated the strong arm, quick release and advanced decision making that has advanced him so quickly up the depth chart. The improvement of receivers like Corey Walden and Bryant Lavender to complement star wide out Courtney Smith will make the passing game even more lethal in the games to come.

No Jag fan needs warning that the next opponent is FCS program Nicholls State. The Colonels opened their season with a 47-0 loss to FBS team San Diego State and have another against Western Michigan before traveling to Mobile. The USA coaches have already begun going through the SDSU game film and will use their bye-week to prepare for new NSU coach Charlie Stubbs' schemes. The players and coaches all realize the importance of this step up in competition and the focus and emotion was already evident on Monday's practice. No matter the result of the game on September 18th, South Alabama fans can be count on their team's best effort.

Jaguars Report Top Stories