Georgia Southern Eagles vs South Alabama Jaguars, 10/3/2019, 6:30pm

Final Score: Georgia Southern 20 – South Alabama 17 2OT; Attendance: 20,013

Weather:  Sunny, 90; Ticket: $14.40, Face $20; Parking: $42.45

Review: “A pleasant surprise” by Tree

The Site:

The South Alabama program is a very young one. At the time I visited, they were playing at Ladd Peebles Stadium, a neutral site but their home stadium. I had hoped to tailgate and bought a parking pass for $43 on Stubhub. While a little more expensive, my ticket was only $15 so I had some room in the budget. As it turned out, by the time I got to the field, I only had about an hour before kickoff. The tailgating in the lot was average at best. There wasn’t much and most of it was by student organizations. The lot itself had plenty of grassy spots to spread out, but it was nearly full when I arrived. There were no attendants guiding traffic so I wandered around until I found an open spot in the back right next to a large group of Georgia Southern tailgaters. It was not exactly the vibe I wanted, but they were very friendly fans. I did a very limited tailgate, eating the shrimp po’boy I picked up on the way in. It was, in reality, money not well spent. I then walked the lot, talking to folks. They admitted that they were awfully light on traditions. They were all looking forward to the new stadium that was being built on campus the next year.

I entered the stadium right before kickoff. The concession stands were fairly standard and there was no souvenir cup. Beer, however, was sold. While my seat was officially on the 30 yard line, I was able to plop down on the fifty yard line halfway up the stands. It was not bad for fifteen bucks. It is a small stadium which is good because there’s only one video screen. Most seats will give you a good view. A big plus for the Jaguars was their band. They sounded great and they were in it the whole game. They really elevated the experience. The student body was well represented. While there was a small contingent of guys in ties / girls in pearls, it was primarily a more relaxed wardrobe crowd with a healthy dose of the state garment – jorts. It was fairly clear that the Redneck Riviera was not too far away. The students were active and involved, despite having no real cheer other than forming a J with their hand. There was some cheering of U.S.A. which I thought was kind of cool. They should leverage that a little more. There was one clear note of the Jaguar’s lower tier status; that being the cheerleaders selling programs in the stands prior to the game. I half expected a raffle to win a game ball.

The Logistics:

University of South Alabama is located in Mobile on the Gulf Coast.  It means at least a couple hour drive wherever you are coming from. I drove down from Atlanta and it was long enough to be unpleasant. I had not exactly been looking forward going to Mobile, thinking it was basically just another sleepy backwater town. I knew the beaches were nice but I didn’t have a lot of time to check them out. I had earlier complained to a friend of mine about the trip while asking her if her school was shoe optional. She didn’t grow up too far from Mobile (and she did wear shoes to school, thank you very much) and said it was really like a small New Orleans. I had my doubts, but in the end she was right. I did not find a mini Bourbon Street, but I did find a very cute old neighborhood that was between my Airbnb and the stadium. Similar to what I had seen on my autumn trip to the Big Easy to see Tulane play, the houses were all decorated for Halloween. Couple this with a nice, easy run to a local park the next morning and I was a bit disappointed that I did not have more time to see the town.

The Game:

Neither team came in with a winning record so I was not sure what we were going to get. Georgia Southern got on the scoreboard first with a long field goal early in the 2nd quarter. This was after the Jaguars had blocked an earlier Eagle attempt. It did not take long for USA to respond. They hit a 75 yard bomb on the following first play from scrimmage. It became pretty clear that South Alabama could not stop the run of Georgia Southern. The Eagles, on the other hand, were susceptible to the Jaguar passing game. Georgia Southern had a late drive to take the lead at halftime, 10 -7.

The second half was more of the same. South Alabama was not able to mount much of an attack. Luckily they had a great punter who kept them in the game. Both teams struggled to move the ball in the third quarter. The Jaguars managed to hit another long pass to go ahead 14 – 10 at the end of the quarter.

With the exception of the rare long pass, the defensive backs of both teams were playing very well. There was a lot of tight coverage and some impressive open field tackles. In fact, if the Jaguars had hands instead of frying pans, they would have had two or three interceptions. South Alabama hit another long pass with about six minutes left to push the lead to seven. On the following kickoff, the Jaguar kicker boots the ball OUT OF BOUNDS! This apparently led the Georgia Southern coaching staff to finally realize that they cannot continue to try to pass on the Jaguars. Instead, they run eight straight times, eat up four minutes of clock and tie the game with twenty seconds left.

Georgia Southern got the ball first in OT, drove to five yard line, than went backward ten yards with a couple of penalties. It still left them with a chip shot of a field goal at thirty-two yards. They, however, miss. So now, all the Jaguars had to do is hit a field to win the game. They, too, however go backwards right from the start and end up having to kick a much longer forty-five yard field goal. It was blocked. The Jaguars misfortune continues in the second overtime when their quarterback fumbles while being sacked. The Eagles close out the game with three short runs and a thirty seven yard field goal to win it.

It was a bit of disappointing finish, but overall, the game was far more entertaining than I expected. The South Alabama experience was a success.

Personal Notes:

Some random thoughts:

  • The security check at this stadium was nearly non-existent but completely appropriate given the venue and size of the crowd.
  • This was a night game in early October and it was still hot. Football in South gets knocked down a peg just for that.
  • These days almost every band has a man twirling a flag in the Color Guard, but not in Alabama. Everything is slower in the South, include change.
  • I noticed that South Alabama has Appalachian State scheduled for Homecoming. Ouch, that’s going to leave a mark.(It did as the Jags would lose 30-3 in that game a couple of weeks later)

Obviously, I cannot declare South Alabama a must-see stadium at Ladd-Peebles nor do I think the new stadium will push them over the top either. However, it is definitely not an experience to avoid. Quite frankly, between a surprisingly scenic Mobile, a rocking marching band, and a very entertaining game, I would not hesitate to go back to Mobile if there was a competitive game scheduled. I would make it a long weekend, maybe hit the beach and enjoy the southern hospitality. So congrats to the Jaguars, they just got elevate from hat status to t-shirt status in my man cave. Well played, well played indeed.

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