The 2013 football season was one of the best for chaos in college football. No one was safe, and there are many games from the Group—I mean, non-BCS conferences—worth looking back. This is the Forgotten 5 2013 Rewind.
For the finale of our 2013 preview, I’ve chosen to look at one team in particular. This team’s season is a surrogate for the entire year nationally, but it also represents this team’s identity—until 2018, that is.
South Alabama under Joey Jones was a roller coaster. Jones left with a record two games above .500 and two bowl appearances, but no postseason wins. Over the last two years the Jaguars beat an SEC program and a ranked team, but also the Georgia Southern game last year.
2013 was peak South Alabama. In week one, it lost to an FCS team, but the next week it beat Tulane, the biggest win in school history at the time. Finally, the Jags rode a three-game win streak to bowl eligibility only to be snubbed.
- A rocky start (Southern Utah, L 22-21)
The game was back-and-forth from the get-go. Southern Utah put up 10 points in the first quarter, but the defense held the Jaguars scoreless and even blocked a field goal in the second. With four minutes left, USA quarterback Brandon Bridge scampered 40 yards to the end zone, preventing a first-half shutout.
South Alabama outscored them in the third quarter 7-3, though, taking the lead into the fourth. A touchdown 13 seconds in seemed to put the game away, but minutes later SUU forced the first turnover of the game, picking off Bridge at the South Alabama 43.
The following drive led to a touchdown, but the Thunderbirds’ two-point conversion failed. Southern Utah forced the Jags to punt, drove down the field and kicked a field goal with seconds left to win the game.
In many ways this game is similar to the Samford-Georgia State game. A marginally worse team comes to visit a young FBS team and outshines the home team in its performance. The Panthers only won a single game between the 2013 and 2014 seasons though.
South bounced right back.
- A quick turnaround (Tulane, W 41-39)
The defense didn’t show up till the end of this game, but it made the difference. Both teams combined for 50 points in the first half, and with a minute left in the third the score was 33-31. Up until that point South and Tulane combined for 705 yards of offense and 8 touchdowns.
Then South blocked a punt, fell on it in the end zone, and retook the lead. Four straight punts followed—twice for each team. To put that into perspective, both teams combined for four punts in the first half alone.
An interception from Roman Buchanan—the first of the day for South—ended the game of hot potato and led to a field goal. Down by eight, Tulane had the ball with six minutes left. The Green Wave surged down the field, scoring on a 10-yard pass.
Tulane called a pass play for the two-point attempt. Quarterback Nate Montana—yeah, that one—rolled to the right, pushed back the Jaguar blitz. In an attempt to throw it away, he halfheartedly lobbed it toward the sideline, but linebacker Maleki Harris snatched it out of the air.
South Alabama was now 1-1 as expected, but the outcomes were far from predictable. Tulane went to the New Orleans Bowl, and maybe should’ve been 8-5. In just these two games the Jags showed how hard they were to pin down.
- A solid finish (Louisiana, W 30-8)
South was 3-6 with five close losses (Southern Utah, Tennessee, Troy, Texas State and Arkansas State) and wins against Western Kentucky and Kent State. The Jags literally needed to sweep the last three games to reach the programs’ first bowl game—in its first year of eligibility.
The first two went off without a hitch—South beat ULM and Georgia State by a combined 43 points. Then, the Ragin’ Cajuns came to Mobile. They were unprepared for what would happen.
Granted, ULL has since vacated eight of its nine wins from that year, but it’s important to note how good the visiting team was. It beat Tulane in the New Orleans Bowl, and owned the head-to-head against the team that shared its conference title.
With 16 seconds left in the first half, South Alabama defensive back Qudarius Ford picked off the Cajuns and returned it for a score. The Jags were up 30-0 at the break.
Judging by their history, the Jags were primed for a fourth-quarter meltdown, a la the 2015 Arkansas State game. That day, though, South stood tall. The only other score in the stat book is a 47-yard passing touchdown for Louisiana.
ULL only had one possession of more than 7 plays. Quarterback Ross Metheny, the Jags’ No. 2 rusher, only had seven fewer yards than Louisiana’s rushers put together. The defense showed up and great things happened.
No, the tragic ending came after the Louisiana win, as the Sun Belt had seven teams eligible for bowl games. Unfortunately, it only had two tie-ins for that season. Louisiana and Arkansas State, the co-champions, went bowling, while an 8-4 Western Kentucky got left out.
So did the 6-6 Sun Belt teams: ULM, Troy, Texas State and South Alabama. The Jaguars were kept out of the promised land, at least until the following year. Of course, that’s another story altogether.
The trend of flirting with a .500 record became a standard in Mobile. Winning games that were perceived losses and losing to schools with no business beating the Jaguars made for exciting football, but at some point the desire for success overcomes the novelty of being a young program.
I said that was the Jaguars’ identity until this past year. I truly believe Steve Campbell will change that. But, looking back at 2013, it’s clear the entire non-AQ world has changed for the better.
If you’ve enjoyed Forgotten 5’s 2013 rewind, let us know on Twitter: @rememberF5.