From the other campus: Jaguars look to finally win close game

Kent State chased after University of South Alabama in an effort to keep the Flashes ahead on Sept. 24. 2011, the last time the Bobcats came to Dix Stadium. Photo by Kristin Bauer.

Kent State chased after University of South Alabama in an effort to keep the Flashes ahead on Sept. 24. 2011, the last time the Bobcats came to Dix Stadium. Photo by Kristin Bauer.

Nick Shook

With five games left in the season and just two wins in its first seven contests, Kent State heads to Mobile, Ala., needing a win now more than ever. In the Flashes’ path stand the South Alabama Jaguars, a program established in 2009 and playing its second full season in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision as a member of the Sun Belt Conference.

Kent State head coach Paul Haynes compared the Jaguars’ offense to that of No. 23 Northern Illinois, who defeated the Flashes 38-24 on Homecoming. The Flashes will face another dual-threat attack at quarterback in the form of two different players who split time at the position, who will likely play a big part in the outcome of Saturday’s game at Ladd Peebles Stadium. Daily Kent Stater football beat writer Nick Shook caught up with JT Crabtree, sports editor of the The Vanguard, South Alabama’s student newspaper, to learn the latest on the Jaguars before Saturday’s contest.

Nick Shook: It looks like it’s been a tough season for South Alabama, a schedule peppered will close losses. Is this just the way its gone for the Jaguars so far, or is it a result of their miscues?

JT Crabtree: It seems like that’s just how it’s going to be this year. Every game this season has been decided by seven points or less, and all the games have come down to the last possession. Head coach Joey Jones said before the season that in order to be a winning program this year, the Jaguars would have to win some close games. So far, he’s been right, but it comes down to the Jags needing to execute better in the first half of games. Most games the Jags are having to play catch-up in order to stay in it.

NS: Kent State head coach Paul Haynes talked about how USA uses a dual-quarterback system, but a quick look at the stats shows Ross Metheny has thrown a majority of the passes. Who is the bigger threat at quarterback?

JC: Ross Metheny and Brandon Bridge split the playing time at quarterback, mostly because each brings a different skill set. Metheny is the more accurate passer who can run well, but he cannot stretch the field or run as well as Bridge. Bridge is more the “change of pace” quarterback. The two-QB system had struggled until last week against Troy, when both quarterbacks put up almost identical numbers.

NS: Since the Flashes and Jaguars last played, South Alabama has become a full member of the Football Bowl Subdivision. How has the first season and a half in big-time college football been for the Jags?

JC: They’ve been fun to watch. After watching this team start from nothing and now being at the highest level of NCAA football, it’s amazing to watch. USA’s biggest problem in years past has been a lack of depth at almost all positions, but now the Jags have much more talent and depth. This looks like a Division I program. Of course, being a new program, there are going to some tough goings at the start, but I think we are starting to see the start of something special in Mobile.

NS: Does the scouting report extend beyond Dri Archer, or is all the pregame talk just centered on Kent State’s playmaker?

JC: Everyone has heard of Dri Archer and knows what he is capable of, but there are also eyes on Colin Reardon. After he injured his ankle last week against Ball State, many fans are wondering if his ankle will limit his running ability on Saturday. On defense, South fans remember Luke Wollet, who had two interceptions against the Jags in 2011.

NS: Your prediction?

JC: The Jags have played tough all year, and coming six yards away from tying Tennessee on the road and losing a rivalry game to Troy by one point last week has only fueled their fire. This Saturday, when the Jags return home for Homecoming, they will have something to prove. South Alabama is undefeated all-time on Homecoming, and I think they will continue that here. It’ll be close, but Jags win 35-31.

Nick Shook is the football reporter for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]