MOBILE, Ala. — South Alabama’s defense made it difficult for opponents to score during the program’s first two years of competition, and the 2011 defense appears to be on the same track.
USA limited West Alabama’s offense to 10 points in Thursday night’s season opener at Ladd-Peebles Stadium despite spending the majority of the game on the field.
The Tigers had a five-minute advantage in possession time (32:39 to 27:21) and also had the luxury of starting four drives inside South Alabama territory thanks to turnovers.
But West Alabama could manage only one touchdown.
“I thought the defense played extremely well,” said Jaguars coach Joey Jones. “They had their backs against the wall most of the first half. It seemed like every time they (West Alabama) got the ball they were at the 50-yard line.
“The position we kept putting them in was tough. The defense did a good job just adjusting on the sidelines to what they were doing. I’m proud of them for bowing up down there inside the 10 late in the game.”
USA’s offense put its defense on the spot in the first half with four turnovers. The defense responded to the mistakes by forcing two punts, and outside linebacker/safety Ken Barefield came away with an interception of quarterback Gary Johnston’s pass in the flat to stop a threat.
“We knew he looked at his receivers,” said Barefield. “I keyed him the whole time, and once he threw it, I knew it was coming right to me. We knew he was effective as a runner, and we wanted to make him pass, and we were able to get two interceptions off him.”
Johnston completed just 10-of-22 passes for 101 yards and ran 22 times for 72 yards. The Tigers finished with 268 total yards
Barefield was one of a handful of Jaguars with strong defensive efforts. He finished the night with 7 tackles, a sack and the interception.
Linebacker Enrique Williams led USA with 11 tackles. Safety B.J. Scott added 10 tackles, linebacker Jake Johnson 9 tackles and safety Charles Harris 9 tackles and an interception.
“We needed it (this type game),” Barefield said. “This game will help us a lot because we had a bunch of mistakes to overcome. We gained experience.
“We have a lot of new players and we’re running a different defense than last year. Every type of possession play that we had to get done tonight, we got done. All in all it, helped us.”