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Passing Game Coming Through For USA Jags In First Scrimmage
Three Jaguar quarterbacks combined to throw for 286 yards and four scores in Saturday’s scrimmage.
Quarterbacks Brennan Sim and Myles Gibbon each threw for two touchdowns Saturday, and Kelly Vail caught four passes for 111 yards as the University of South Alabama football team’s offense picked up 286 of its 352 yards through the air in the Jaguars’ first spring scrimmage at the practice fields on campus.
Sim finished 11-of-21 passing for 172 yards, while Gibbon completed 6-of-9 attempts for another 92 yards and Gabe Graham was successful on all four of his passes to add 22 yards. The trio connected with 11 different receivers - in addition to Vail’s performance, Courtney Smith grabbed three balls for 38 yards, and Bryant Lavender, Tyler Miller and Ralph Turner caught two passes apiece.
“Offensively, I think we are throwing the ball a little bit better,” said Jag head coach Joey Jones. “That has been an area that we have been looking to improve on.”
“I’m happy with the strides the offense has made in the spring,” added Vail. “We done a lot better and are throwing the ball more - we need to improve the way we run the ball, but we are getting there.”
While the Jaguar offense was able to gain better than eight yards per passing play, the defense allowed only 66 yards on 58 carries. Justin Dunn and Darrius McMullin each recorded seven stops to pace the unit, and Enrique Williams collected five tackles including 1½ for loss. Brett Hancock, Charlie Higgenbotham, Brandon Norton and Will Thompson chipped in with four stops apiece, Jonathan Cameron had three tackles and broke up three pass attempts, and both Ken Barefield and Zach Brownell forced fumbles.
The defense was credited with 18 total tackles behind the line of scrimmage, with 10 of those coming on quarterback sacks.
“Our defense has just gotten tougher against the run, which is what you want to see,” commented Jones. “Last fall, it was a little bit porous at times against the offense, but they have done a great job of improving. Sure there are things that still need to be corrected, but I have been pleased with their efforts to stop the running game.”
“I think we had a good day, but we’re not satisfied,” said Brownell, who added three tackles. “We have a lot of work to do in the last week-and-a-half of spring practice, so we’re going to try to keep getting better day by day.
“It was fun since it was the first time we’ve had the chance to compete in a while, though.”
Brandon Ross led USA with 34 yards on eight carries, while Ellis Hill gained 24 yards on six attempts.
The first- and second-team defense each forced a three-and-out to start the day before Graham used a 10-yard completion to Smith to give the offense its initial first down of the day. On the first-team’s next series, Sim hit Vail in stride inside the 5-yard line, but Brownell was able to catch the receiver from behind just shy of the goal line, forcing a fumble that rolled out the back of the end zone.
The offense finally got on the board two possessions later thanks to another big play. One snap after Ross moved the chains on his first carry, Gibbon found Corey Besteda down the left sideline for a 49-yard touchdown pass.
The defense answered by forcing two straight three-and-outs - posting three sacks in six snaps - before ending the next drive with an Eddy Cabrera interception, which he ran back 17 yards.
On the last two drives of the opening half the offense was able to record five first downs, but with the possessions starting at their own 30-yard line the unit was not able to reach the red zone.
The second half opened with four more three-play series before Ross was able to pick up a pair of first downs for the offense.
But the final points of the day didn’t come until possessions began from the defense’s 40-yard line.
A 36-yard completion from Sim to Vail moved the offense inside the 5-yard line, and three plays later Sim found Ryne Baxter open in the left corner of the end zone for a touchdown. Gibbon began the next series with an 18-yard pass to Richard Ross, which would eventually lead to a 30-yard Jordan Means field goal.
The last four drives of the scrimmage had the offense starting with first-and-goal at the 9-yard line. Michel Chapuseaux kicked a 23-yard field goal to end the first, then Sim hit Smith on a slant pattern for an 8-yard score on fourth down. The last play of the day was a 9-yard touchdown pass from Gibbon to Robby Stoner.
“We’ve made some improvements in the last week-and-a-half, but we have got to have a great week this week,” said Jones. “The next four practices we have need to be great because when we get to Monday the week of the spring game we are basically going to be done at that point as far as trying to get better.
“I think the kids will respond to that challenge.”
The Jaguars will practice in pads on both Monday and Tuesday, with contact limited on the first day beginning at 7 a.m. and tackling slated when the team takes the field at 7:30 a.m. the next morning. The second of three scrimmages this spring will be at the practice fields on campus Saturday, March 6.
For more information about South Alabama athletics, check back with www.usajaguars.com. Season tickets for all Jaguar athletic events can be purchased by calling (251) 461-1USA (1872), and football season-ticket holders will have an opportunity to choose where they will sit at Ladd-Peebles Stadium during the 2010 campaign when a special select a seat event begins on March 10 at 4 p.m. at the stadium prior to the program’s annual spring game.
By the University of South Alabama Sports Information