JAGUAR FOOTBALL WINS THIRD STRAIGHT WITH DEFEAT OF ALCORN STATE

MOBILE, Ala. – Kareem Walker ran for 150 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday to help lead the University of South Alabama to a 28-21 non-conference football win over Alcorn State at Hancock Whitney Stadium.

Bryan Hill added 51 yards on nine carries as well as the Jaguars (3-0) ran for 236 yards in picking up their third straight victory to begin the campaign.  A.J. DeShazor Jr. paced USA defensively with six total stops, with Yam Banks, Davyn Flenord, Devin Rockette and Wy’Kevious Thomas all credited with four tackles each as well.

Felix Harper was 20-of-33 passing for 265 yards and a score for the Braves (1-2), with CJ Bolar accounting for 128 of those yards on five receptions.  Claudin Chereius led all players with seven tackles for Alcorn.

South Alabama 28, Alcorn State 21 (final stats)
South Alabama/Alcorn State photo gallery

GAME FACTS
-Walker capped a 12-play, 70-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run on fourth down to give the Jags a 7-0 lead after 15 minutes.
-The Braves turned a pair of fumbles by South into touchdowns to go up 14-7 at halftime.
-The Jaguars went up 28-14 heading to the fourth quarter after touchdowns runs — including two by Walker from 13 and 35 yards out — capped each of their first three possessions of the second half.
-Alcorn drew within one score in the opening minute of the final period on a two-yard pass from Harper to Juan Anthony Jr., but saw its final two possessions end in the red zone on downs and a Tré Young interception in the end zone.
-The Jaguars finished with nearly 100 more yards of total offense, ending up with a 394-297 advantage in the category, after limiting the Braves to just 32 yards on the ground.
-While Alcorn scored all 21 points of Jag turnovers, it was called for 11 penalties and finished with points on just two of five drives that reached the USA-20.

NOTES
-This was the first meeting between the two schools, although the Jaguars now have a 5-0 record against Southwestern Athletic Conference opponents.
-South earned its seventh straight win over an opponent from the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision to move to 14-2 all-time against schools from the level.
-It’s the first time since the 2010 campaign that went undefeated in September.
-USA won when trailing at the half for the second week in a row, matching the number of victories when behind at the break recorded by the program over the last three years combined.
-The Jag defense matched a season high after recording four sacks.
-After turning the ball over just twice in its first two games, USA lost three fumbles in the second quarter while committing four miscues overall.
-Walker became the first Jaguar to run for three touchdowns in a game since Xavier Johnson did so in a Dec. 3, 2016, win over New Mexico State, tying the school record in the category first set by Brandon Ross during the Jaguars’ inaugural season.
-In the process, he also finished with his first 100-yard rushing performance at the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision level.
-It was the second time in the last four outings going back to the 2020 finale that DeShazor Jr. has led South in tackles.
-Darrell Luter Jr. broke up a career-high-tying passes — matching a total he recorded in South’s first win of the year over Southern Mississippi, adding his first three stops of the season as well
For the second time in three outings.
-It marked the first occasion that Thomas has finished with multiple tackles for loss, while Gi’Narious Johnson recorded his first sack since the Jaguars’ season-opening victory at Southern Miss a year ago.
-The game was delayed for 90 minutes due to a lighting issue immediately following the opening kickoff.

THEY SAID IT
South Alabama head coach Kane Wommack
Opening statement: “That was yesterday’s game, which is the way this program needs to operate. That wasn’t nearly to our standard. We had some things exposed during the first two weeks that we allowed to show up again. Every person in our building has to be relentless to get those things fixed. When you make a mistake in week one, it’s got to get corrected in week two and week three. The best teams in the country continue to get better, and that’s what we have to do in this bye week.” 
On what both sides of the ball did differently during the first three possessions of the second half that weren’t being done the rest of the night: “When you just do your job and you have an urgency about doing your job, good things happen. We were running the same runs that we ran in the first half, but we executed and operated better. Somehow we have to come out better. We need to just come out and do our job and execute at a high level early. On top of that, when you put the ball on the ground four times, which really should have been five times, you’re going to give yourself a very difficult hole to crawl out of and we were fortunate to do that tonight.”
On all the mistakes being fixable: “Everything is fixable if you have a growth mindset. You can either look at things from a fail mentality or you can look at it as an opportunity for growth. We talk about having a neutral mindset regardless of success or not, and just doing our job over and over again, because it is what it is and it’s going to take what it’s going to take to win a ball game. Credit our players that we’ve been able to do that when we haven’t operated clean yet in three games, we’re still 3-0. All we’re guaranteed is an opportunity to come out on the field on a Saturday and go play hard. What we do with that opportunity determines who we are and how we’re defined, so everybody has to maximize that opportunity. The work we put in on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday has to show up on Saturday.”
On Kareem Walker’s performance in the third quarter: “We’ve really challenged him and I’ve been as hard on Kareem Walker as anybody in our program. We’ve needed to see him take that next step and really hit things downhill and be more decisive in the run game. There’s a fine line between patience and decisiveness. I think he is starting to feel that more and more. I was really excited to watch him and Bryan Hill operate with our offensive line who were making some pretty wide holes for us to run through.”
On where he feels the team is heading into the open date: “I think we are a team that is finding ways to win, but we beat ourselves too often. We’ve got to get the fundamentals of what we do fixed. We have to operate better from a ball security standpoint. We’ve got to take whatever it was that we didn’t do well enough in one game and apply that to the next game. Right now, we are winning football games, but we don’t know how to win as a football team. We’ve got to get ourselves in position to do that, and you have to play games to do that. You have find gritty ways to win, and that’s what we’re doing right now, but at the same time more often than not, we say teams beat themselves quicker than they win football games. When we get into the Sun Belt [Conference], which is a damn good league, we’re going to have to operate at a higher level than what we’re executing. Right now, self-inflicted wounds are the biggest issue in this program.”
On managing the delay: “We won, but I’m not sure we operated very well in the first half. I don’t think we did very well with it to be honest. People can use the lights and the weather and other things as an excuse, but we get three hours, a three-hour window of opportunity in time, to go show all the work that we’ve put into this program, and impose our work onto an opponent from the word go and we didn’t do that. I don’t care if the lights go out, I don’t care if we have weather issues, I don’t care if we play at two o’clock in the morning, whenever that opportunity is to show up, we better do it.” 

Senior QB Jake Bentley
On his thoughts on the game: “We won, which at the end of the day is what matters. Last week, we didn’t play well but we won in an exciting way. So, everyone was excited. For two weeks, I thought we had opportunities to play better. I don’t want to sound negative because we did some good things. Kareem [Walker] ran it well. I thought the offensive line blocked well. I think there are just so many things we can clean up and be so much more explosive. We really need to take advantage of this bye week and really work on the things that need to get fixed.”
On getting off to better starts in the first half: “That’s what we talk about each week. We came out in the second half and moved it right down the field. We have to translate that into the first half and have that mindset. It’s like boxing, we get punched in the face and we have to respond. Which, that’s a great quality to have in an offense but we have to stop putting ourselves in that position. We can’t keep putting the defense in that position.”
On the delay at the beginning of the game: “It was fine. I think that is just an excuse for some people to make for the offense starting slow. We were fine and we were locked in and ready to go. We just didn’t execute.”
On getting ready for conference play: “We have to get better during this open week, me included. I have to take care of the ball, I can’t fumble in a critical third down situation. There were some reads I have to get better at. There are also some things that we can continue to grow in. I thought we ran the ball extremely well in the second half. That’s something we can continue to build on. We made some plays but just have to make them more often and more efficiently to get the ball into the end zone.”

Junior ILB A.J. DeShazor Jr.
On the win: “Right now, I’m not going to say we are disappointed, but we know that we didn’t play to the standard that we should have from the start to the end. You can’t let a team like Alcorn hang around. They got momentum early from a muffed punt return that we had and in just that instant, they had a little hope there that ‘ok we can keep the score like this.’ That’s just one thing we have got to learn, to finish. We know things may not add up with the weather or whatnot, but we have got to learn how to handle adversity better and come back to practice with a better attitude for conference play.” 
On Alcorn’s quarterback Felix Harper: “Their quarterback is a great player. He, I think, was the offensive player of the year, so we knew going in he was going to be their offense. He was going to create plays and he did that. As a defense, we have to contain that speed and we did at times, but we could have been better and crisper at that.” 
On getting another late turnover to help win a game: “It’s big time [that we recover]. Coach always says hold your ground. As a defense, we know just because the offense can drive it down to the end zone doesn’t mean they can get points whether that is a field goal or a touchdown. It was big, we have just learned again, things might not go our way on offense or special teams, we have to get better in all categories of the game: special teams, offense and defense. There is so much room for improvement, but again, Alcorn played very hard.”

Junior DL Gi’Narious Johnson
On getting the win and starting out 3-0: “For me it means a lot. I went from JuCo to D-I and I have never been 3-0, never been on a team that’s undefeated. It’s a great feeling, we still have things to work on, but just knowing we are 3-0 is still a great feeling and something to celebrate about.”
On Alcorn’s quarterback: “Our goal was to disrupt the quarterback. We told ourselves this guy is fast, which we respected. We knew he was going to get out there and do his thing. We knew he was the motor of that offense, so we made sure we did our job and we put pressure on him. We tried to hit him if we could. Tried to keep him contained and in the pocket and make him throw the ball.” 
On where the team is heading into conference play: “We don’t feel like we have made it just yet. We know we are a team that is still progressing and we are still going uphill.  It’s one of those things where we are still working every single day. We are still grinding heading into a bye week. We are going to continue to work. We just have to let ourselves know, we are a better team than what we present on these recent games.”

Senior RB Kareem Walker
On the offensive line: “Without them, 223 rushing yards — from what I saw out there — wouldn’t have been possible, so all credit goes to the big guys up front and the tight ends.”
On the delay: “It was definitely a weird feeling and I think we were ready to play with the lights off. We went into the locker room, told each other to lock in, do some extra stretching and listen to music. I don’t think it really affected us.”
On the performance after halftime: “The keys to victory and the things we do on offense is taking care of the ball and creating explosive plays. We know to take care of the ball, it’s in our keys to victory every time we come out. I think when you look across football in general, the teams with less turnovers are going to win the game. The goal was to have less turnovers and take care of the ball.”
On overcoming adversity: “I think this team does a good job of facing adversity. We don’t quit and don’t let the teammates that made the mistake get down on themselves too hard. We say ‘next play’ or ‘next drive’ or that the defense is going to get us the ball back, we have faith in those guys. It’s about when we get back on the field and taking care of the ball, because the last play is gone.”
On the scoring drives: “I think it was good, of course coming out of halftime we said we wanted to score and play South Alabama football the way we play. I feel like we could’ve done better on the drives that we did score, but it’s always important to score the ball when you’re down. It was a great feeling to come out and score right away.”

Senior S Tré Young
On the interception: “It was Cover-2 coverage and the coaches made a good call. The quarterback got me on the same play in the first quarter. I just read the quarterback and baited him and just did my job.”
On deciding whether to return it or not: “I was about to take it to the crib and then I saw there was a minute on the clock. So, I decided to just stay in the end zone.”
On how he felt when the play was reviewed: “I was nervous, but then I saw the ball was still in the end zone, so that gave me some relief.”
On the mood in the locker room after the win: “Everybody is happy because we got the win. But, we all know we have to lock in for the bye week. There is a lot more we can improve in and show our coaches that we can dominate.”

Alcorn State head coach Fred McNair
On his thoughts on the game: “I can’t say enough about how these young men played today. The effort was there. They played hard and kept fighting. I’m just so proud of these young men that we have here. We played against a good football team in South Alabama. We talk about growing up and playing hard through perseverance and these guys did that.”
On special teams play and the recovery in the end zone: “It was big. We talk about winning the special teams battle all of the time. I tell the guys, winning special teams can win the ball game. With these guys, they gave a lot of effort and they aren’t going to give up.”
On responding after the third quarter: “They fought. They played hard and didn’t give up. These guys are going to play hard every game. The biggest thing is, we just have to make sure everyone is doing the right thing. We are going to go back and watch film and break down our mistakes. The defense kept fighting. It was bend but don’t break and that’s what they did.”
On the message to the team after the game: “We just told them to keep fighting and give effort until the end. We don’t make excuses. We just try to find solutions. I thought these guys did that and played a heck of a ball game in the second half. If the team can continue to do that, there’s a lot of promising things for us this year.”

Up next: The Jaguars are off next weekend and will begin Sun Belt Conference action at home on Saturday, Oct. 2 against defending West Division champion Louisiana.

For more information about South Alabama athletics, check back with www.usajaguars.com, and follow the Jaguars at www.twitter.com/WeAreSouth_JAGS. Season tickets for all Jaguar athletic events can be purchased by calling (251) 461-1USA (1872).

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—USA—
 

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