Only a few days remain until the University of South Alabama football team takes part in the school’s first-ever bowl game. Jaguar fans are buying their tickets, booking their hotel rooms and reserving shuttle rides up Interstate 65 for the inaugural Camellia Bowl.
It was only six years ago that USA started its program. Now in just it second season as a full-fledged NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision member, they will make history by appearing in a post-season game quicker than any previous FBS team.
“It was a dream for all of our kids three years ago,” USA head coach Joey Jones told the media in Montgomery last week. “We started making our goals, and here we are.
“I’m tickled to death about our players, to be able to achieve that goal.”
USA capped the year by finishing fourth in the Sun Belt Conference with a 5-3 mark. The Jags were 6-6 overall, with five of the losses coming to bowl-bound teams. The other setback was to Georgia Southern, which won the league title but is not eligible for bowls during its transition to full FBS status.
The Bowling Green Falcons stand 7-6, having fallen to Northern Illinois in the Mid-American Conference championship game. The Falcons had won their division with a 5-3 record. This is their third straight bowl appearance, and 12th overall.
Camellia Bowl events get under way Friday. A USA pep rally will be near the Renaissance Hotel at 5:30 p.m., while the Montgomery Christmas Parade will begin at 6:30 p.m. At 7 p.m., a fireworks show will precede the Jag Nation “Mission: Montgomery” party at The Hanger in the Alley entertainment district at 166 Commerce St.
At noon Saturday, the Cramton Bowl’s parking lot opens. At nearby Paterson Field, the free Winn-Dixie Fan Fest is at 3 p.m. The Jaguar tailgate tent follows at 4 p.m. This catered event is $25 for adults, $15 for fans 6 to 12, and free for those 5 and under. Reservations for the tailgate tent may be made on the www.usajaguars.com.
Kickoff is Saturday night at 8:15. The game will be broadcast on ESPN. Reserved seat tickets on the East Side stands are $25, and can be purchased by phone at 251-461-1USA (1872) or in person at the Mitchell Center ticket office.
For those fans just wishing to attend the game, the USA Alumni Association is sponsoring shuttles from Mobile and Baldwin counties. The shuttles will leave at noon and return after the game. The Mobile County location is the UCOM parking lot on campus at the corner of Old Shell Road and University Boulevard, while Baldwin County fans will leave from the Eastern Shore Center in Spanish Fort behind Dillard’s. The cost of the trip is $30, and seats can be reserved at the USA website.
Bowling Green had two players make the All-MAC first-team squad: wide receiver Roger Lewis and punt returner Ryan Burbrink. On the second-team roster were offensive lineman Alex Huettel, defensive back Nick Johnson and outside linebacker Gabe Martin. On the third-team were punter Tyler Tate and defensive lineman Bryan Thomas.
South Alabama had six players receive second-team All-SBC recognition. They were wide receiver Shavarez Smith, offensive lineman Ucambre Williams, safety Terrell Brigham, linebacker Maleki Harris, defensive lineman Jerome McClain and defensive end Theo Rich.
Cornerback Montell Garner, defensive lineman Jess Kelley plus offensive linemen Chris May and Melvin Meggs were on the honorable mention list. Tight end Braedon Bowman was named to the conference’s All-Newcomer Team.
USA quarterback Brandon Bridge has accepted an invitation to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. The all-star game for draft-eligible seniors will be Saturday, Jan. 17, at 3 p.m., in Carson, Calif. In 10 games this season, the Canadian native has completed 140-of-270 passes for 1,648 yards and 14 touchdowns, while rushing for 259 yards and three touchdowns.
Calling the plays for USA in the Camellia Bowl will be a familiar face. Bryant Vincent is rejoining the coaching staff as offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. He held the same positions at The University of Alabama-Birmingham, but the school recently announced it is dropping the football program. Prior to coaching the Jaguars, Vincent had been the head coach at Spanish Fort, leading the Toros to the 2010 state title.
Archery complex coming to Foley
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is opening its 10th community archery park, this one at the Graham Creek Nature Preserve in Foley. The grand opening will be Friday at 3 p.m.
The facility includes an eight-target adult range from 15 to 20 years, an eight-target youth range from 5 to 20 yards plus a four-target range of 10 to 40 yards. This includes a 12-foot shooting platform for bowhunters to practice shooting from an elevated position.
The entrance of the preserve is located at 23450 Wolf Bay Drive. The range will be open year-round during daylight hours for recreational shooting, competitive tournaments and outdoor education programs. The park also offers hiking, biking and walking trails, a canoe/kayak trail, a disc golf course and playground areas.
Use of the archery park is free for those less than 16 years of age and greater than 65. Alabama residents ages 16 to 64 must have a hunting license, Wildlife Management Area license or Wildlife Heritage license. For non-residents, an annual Wildlife Management license or non-resident hunting license is required.
For more information, call 251-952-4011 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The University of Mobile’s Daouda Soumaoro was named the Southern States Athletic Conference player of the week earlier this month. The 6-foot-9 junior from Bamako, Mali, led the Rams with 19 points and 12 rebounds in a win over Johnson University.
This was his third straight double-double effort. He is averaging 14.4 points and 10.6 rebounds this year for the Rams.