Well, the old calendar on the wall shows summer officially begins on Saturday, June 21, and that can mean only one thing. College football season is just around the corner.
This will be the most highly-anticipated campaign yet for the young program at the University of South Alabama. After finishing with bowl eligibility last year with a 6-6 record, the Jaguars are shooting for a winning record and perhaps a run at the Sun Belt Conference title.
This will also be the most attractive home schedule yet put together by USA. The marquee game arrives early, when the Mississippi State Bulldogs play on Saturday, Sept. 13. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN News.
This will likely be the first time a Southeastern Conference team has played at Ladd-Peebles Stadium since Alabama closed out a three-game run against Southern Mississippi in 1968. The Crimson Tide first played in Mobile in 1948, and went 10-7-2 over the years. Auburn has a 3-3-2 mark on Virginia Street, playing from 1948 to 1955.
There is a good chance this game will sell out. The Bulldogs are coming off an overtime win over rival Ole Miss, a 44-7 blowout of Rice in the Liberty Bowl, have an all-star candidate in junior quarterback Dak Prescott and have already established a record in season ticket sales.
Tickets for the MSU game are currently available only as part of the Jaguars’ 2014 season-ticket plan, with prices starting at $60. Quantities are limited on the west side of the stadium and single-game availability is not guaranteed.
This is the second of a three-game series between the Bulldogs and Jaguars. State won 30-10 in Starkville during the 2012 season, and the teams will play there again in 2016.
Cross-state rival Troy will come to Mobile for a Sun Belt match-up on Friday, Oct. 24. This will mark the third time in as many years the two schools will play on TV, as ESPNU will broadcast the game at 6:30 p.m.
Also on the home schedule are Georgia Southern on Sept. 20, Georgia State on Oct. 18 and Texas State on Nov. 15. Wrapping things up on the day after Thanksgiving will be a showdown with the Midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy.
USA will actually open the season on the road Sept. 6, with a game against Kent State at 1 p.m. on ESPN3. After the two home games, the Jaguars will face Idaho on Sept. 27 at 4 p.m. All other game times for USA are still to be determined.
To purchase tickets, individuals can go to tickets.southalabama.edu or call 251-461-1USA (1872). For more information on purchasing season tickets, fans should visit www.usajaguars.com.
Fire another volley
The football team at South Alabama is not the only one looking forward to next season. The Lady Jaguars are coming off their best record in nearly 20 years and return all six starters in 2014.
Leading the way are sophomores Mechell Daniel and Jessica Lewis. Daniel was the SBC’s freshman of the year and was named first-team all-conference. Lewis made the second-team squad.
USA closed out the 2013 season as one of the hottest clubs in the Sun Belt, winning seven of its final nine regular-season matches. The only school that did better was Western Kentucky, which went on to win the regular-season title.
Head coach Amy Hendrichovsky’s team will open play at the Asics Classic on Aug. 29-30, hosted by Pepperdine University. Last spring in Gulf Shores, Pepperdine won its second AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball National Championship in the last three seasons.
The Sun Belt will have a new look next year, as Western Kentucky left for Conference USA. New members include Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, both coming from the Southern Conference. GSU won both the regular season and tournament titles last year.
The first home match for the Lady Jags will be Sept. 21 against Georgia State.
Best of the best
Several local college athletes have received special recognition for their efforts this last season.
USA’s Renaldo Frechou became the sixth individual in program history to claim All-America honors. The sophomore from Paarl, South Africa, finished seventh in the men’s hammer throw at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore. The SBC champ surpassed his own school mark four times, finishing with a 67.64-meter effort on his final toss.
At the NAIA Women’s Track and Field Championships in Gulf Shores, Corinne Missi of Spring Hill was named to the All-America team for her seventh-place finish in the triple jump. The freshman from Yaoundé, Cameroon, recorded her best effort at 11.71 meters, which is a school record. Her two points allowed SHC to be the only Southern States Athletic Conference women’s team to score at the meet.
Former USA left-handed pitcher Hannah Campbell was named to the third-team All-American club. The Satsuma native established a school record with a 0.95 earned run average, while going 18-6 on the mound with 176 strikeouts. She was also the third overall player taken in the 2014 National Pro Fastpitch draft.
University of Mobile’s Deonica McCormick was named the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s Small College Athlete of the Year. The Biloxi native helped the Lady Rams win the SSAC tournament title and a berth in the NAIA national playoffs. The 5-foot-8 senior guard was a first-team All-American and conference player of the year after averaging 21.2 points, 3.5 records, 3.6 assists and 2.3 steals.
Robby Shelton of Wilmer, a St. Paul’s graduate, made an impressive showing at the U.S. Open last week. However, his 78-75 total of 153 was not enough to make the cut.
Shelton, who just finished his freshman year by helping Alabama defend its NCAA golf championship, is a three-time state prep champion and a member of the U.S. Junior Ryder Cup team. He was named the SEC’s Freshman of the Year and a first-team All-American.