SDSU football seeks bounce-back win against tough South Alabama

by Anthony Reclusado, Senior Staff Writer

If there’s not a lot of talk about the San Diego State football team’s next opponent, the University of South Alabama, that’s not an indictment on the level of competition the Jaguars pose.

It’s simply the obscurity around a team that only recently jumped into college football.

USA has only had full FBS status for two years after starting football operations in 2009. The Jaguars earned the program’s first bowl bid last season, but they only return seven starters this year and only one on defense.

But thanks to an influx of transfers from the formerly disbanded University of Alabama, Birmingham football team, the Jaguars remain competitive.

“We play a team that is much more talented then anybody in San Diego realizes,” Aztecs head coach Rocky Long said.

Defensively, however, USA is inexperienced as it tries to accommodate 10 new starters on its defense and rely heavily on freshmen in personnel rotations.

But the Jaguar defense does pose its challenges.

“South Alabama is a little different than the two teams we have played so far,” Junior tight end Daniel Brunskill said. “USD and Cal weren’t huge pressure teams and South Alabama will bring a lot of pressure.”

Despite the additional pressure that the Jaguars bring out of their 4-2-5 defense, they’ve failed to record a single sack in their first two games.

In their first match against Football Championship Subdivision opponent Gardner-Webb University, the Jaguar defense held stout late in the game and limited the Runnin’ Bulldogs to 23 points. Senior linebacker Mike Dees, a Texas Tech transfer, headlined the defensive effort with 13 tackles and two forced fumbles.

The Jaguar defense struggled to get off the field against the Runnin’ Bulldogs, who rushed for 177 yards while maintaining possession for nearly 39 minutes.

The trend carried over into USA’s matchup last week against the University of Nebraska, where the Cornhuskers ran for 258 yards and averaged nearly seven yards per rush.

Again, the Jaguar defense was unable to get off the field. The Cornhuskers won the time of possession battle 33:34 to 26:26.

On average, the USA defense is allowing 435 yards per game and for an Aztec team that has countless offensive concerns, this game couldn’t come at a more crucial time.

Offensively, the Jaguars employ a multiple spread offense that resembles UC Berkeley’s, but with a drastic difference in the talent level.

That doesn’t hinder the potency of their offense, which has five plays of 49 yards or more this season.

USA senior quarterback Cody Clements, a UAB transfer, comes in facing an SDSU secondary that was scorched by Cal’s junior quarterback Jared Goff for 321 yards last weekend.

Against Nebraska the Jaguar run game failed to show up, which forced Clements to air it out. With a clear one-dimensional offense, the senior transfer was still able to complete 23 of his 40 attempts for 271 yards and one interception.

“The starting quarterback this year for South Alabama was the starting quarterback for UAB last year,” Long said. “So he is a very experienced guy and is a pretty good player.”

Two of Clements’s former UAB teammates made the trip south to USA with their signal-caller: junior tight end Gerald Everett and senior wide receiver D.J. Vinson.

Everett has been a dependable target for Clements with seven catches for 114 yards and a touchdown so far.

The SDSU defense will also have to be conscious of sophomore running back Xavier Johnson, who has proved to be a weapon in both the rushing and passing game.

He has a team-leading 149 yards on the ground and a touchdown, including a 92-yard touchdown run against GWU to go with and 78 receiving yards and a touchdown catch.

Even though both teams will head into this game with a chip on their shoulders from their previous week disasters, the home field advantage and experience of the Aztecs will show late in the game.

Not to mention a defense for SDSU that has a lot to prove to itself after last week’s performance and will take out that frustration on the visiting Jaguars.