Sun Belt Showdown: 11 Oklahoma State Cowboys vs South Alabama Jaguars
How does South Alabama do it? The Jaguars don’t seem to have any trouble attracting big brands to the archaic edifice that is Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The 11th ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys are the latest visitors.
Jags and Cowboys, Friday, September 8th, 7PM on ESPN2
The Jaguars are like the Coachella of the Sun Belt, always delivering a tremendous line-up. (That was a hip reference for you #Millennial readers.) In the last four years, Ladd-Peebles Stadium has played host to Mississippi State, North Carolina State, 19 San Diego State and now 11 Oklahoma State. Are you kidding me? Who’s South Bama’s agent? Colonel Parker? (That was a hip reference for you Baby Boomer readers)
Oklahoma State rumbles into Mobile having humiliated Tulsa on national TV 59-24 behind 20/24 passing from can’t-miss QB Mason Rudolph. Do the Jags have anything to counter such devastating firepower?
It’s not like the Jaguars are helpless creatures
As loyal and intelligent readers, you likely recall that South Bama has recently bested Mississippi State (in Starksville) and San Diego State (in San Diego and in Mobile). On the surface, there doesn’t seem much to redeem from a season opening 47-27 loss to Mississippi (at Oxford), but newly minted starting QB Cole Garvin didn’t throw a single pick. That was a sore spot for the Jags last season.
In addition, South Alabama found a compliment to RB Xavier Johnson in Tra Minter (Soph., 5-9, 185). Minter averaged 6.9 yards per attempt against the Rebel Bears. If the Jags can motivate Johnson to provide more than 3 per attempt, Joey Jones and Co. might start some business against the Cowboys.
Who needs to bust ass, besides Garvin and Johnson?
Against Ole Miss, Garvin spread his 204 passing yards to a number of receivers, but three received the bulk: Sa’Mory Collier (43 yards), Jamarius Way (42 yards, 1 TD) and Sam Harris (41 yards). Nobody had a reception better than Harris’ 30 yard grab. The Jags will need to control the ball against Oklahoma, but sprinkling some big pass plays would help keep the Cowboy defense guessing.
But what South Bama really needs is an epic performance from its defense. Senior safety Jeremy Reaves was a monster at Oxford, collecting a sack (!) and two TFLs (!!) against the Ole Miss offense. But Reaves and DE Finesse Middleton were the only guys doing damage in Week 1. The Jags could use some more bodies creating disruption at the line of scrimmage.
The Cowboys aren’t in Mobile to spit tobacco
Mason Rudolph was incredible versus Tulsa in Week 0, throwing for 303 yards and three touchdowns. One hundred and forty-five of those yards and two scores went to to senior WR James Washington (6-1, 205). That’s a tough combo for Reaves and the Jags’ secondary to check.
Many believe Mike Gundy’s boys are the cream of the Big XII, and he’ll likely have his team focused on the big picture on Saturday – and the big picture does not feature an L against the Jaguars. Look for Gundy to approach South Alabama the way he did Tulsa: immediate, heart-ripping TD strikes between Rudolph and Washington.
The Final Word
Of late, South Alabama exceeds expectations and capabilities for high-profile games at Ladd-Peebles. But this is the 11th ranked team in the land. For Joey Jones to force the upset, he’ll need to control the game’s tempo with methodical possessions to keep the ball out of Rudolph’s trigger hand.
A former notary public, Jeremy Harper is a professional writer and Chief Instigator for Storm the Castle Creative. He spends much of his free time staring blankly into space.