MOBILE – Tony Lee wrote about America’s shared tradition of football, and the University of South Alabama (patriotically referred to as USA) and Old Dominion University have started up football programs. The case for more schools to join the four other southern schools who are making the jump to FBS was made stronger Saturday when USA upset Bobby Petrino in their first ever Sun Belt game.
The stadium allowed Alabama’s only Fortune 500 company (Regions Bank), and the employer who just bought 4,000 jobs to the area Austal to advertise (see photo) in a stadium that still has empty end zone seats despite an overall good crowd – even though a few still wore Auburn or Alabama shirts instead of the USA shirt in this football-crazy state.
Breitbart Sports was informed by one football coach who was in initial meetings about starting football at South Alabama that the plan was to eventually get a Big East invite. While the Big East, which is now the American Athletic Association, was unable to keep up with the other BCS conferences, it was still the potentially middle spot between the lower FBS Conferences and the BCS – so non-BCS teams looked up to it.
In addition to Old Dominion and USA starting programs from scratch, and that has encouraged the Georgia State Panthers, UNCC 49ers, Georgia Southern Eagles, and the Appalachian State Mountaineers to make the jump as well.
Except for the end zone, most seats in the home of the annual Senior Bowl (Ladd Peebles Stadium) were full, and the game was made to order. An easy villain in Bobby Petrino (see separate post) on the verge of winning, until USA’s Tyrell Pearson intercepted two passed in the final 2:12 to give USA a 31-24 win.
A student worker who talked to Breitbart Sports at the game said the enthusiasm has been building on campus, which is about five miles away from the actual stadium, but that there were mixed feelings about being on ESPN3. All appreciated the exposure, but said there were a lot of students who wanted to see the team on TV instead of coming to the game.
USA fielded a team of underclassmen in 2010 that played against seniors from lower level teams. Because USA rolled up wins by an average of about a 30-point margin per game, expectations may have gotten too high. Computer rankings put the team on the verge of the Top 100 of all teams due to the huge margins, an inaccuracy that was exposed when the first USA football players moved up to play bigger schools their junior and senior season.
The defense was respectable in a 13-35 loss at NC State in 2010, and they almost pulled off an upset with a 25-33 loss at Kent State that season. In 2011 they moved up to a much tougher schedule, and after three touchdown losses to NC State, Mississippi State and Troy, they almost pulled off the programs first big win in a narrow loss at 10-3 Arkansas State (29-36 loss).
This season the Jaguars started the season with a near upset of Southern Utah (21-22), then went into Tulane to pull off a minor upset as the offense got rolling in a 41-39 game. However, starting Sun Belt play with an upset of Western Kentucky is a huge win for the program.