MOBILE, Ala. – The South Alabama Jaguars defeated Mississippi State, 21-20, during the first game of the year – the first SEC opponent the young Jaguars program has defeated.

Last weekend, an exciting 41-40 overtime win over Nicholls.

It’s safe to say South Alabama has momentum.

Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, the 21-point underdog Jaguars faced their first ranked opponent in eight years: No. 19 San Diego State Aztecs which coincidentally has the country’s leading rusher.

They won, for the second year in a row, 42-24 – and did so without a starting quarterback and starting running back.

Is it too early to mention LSU on November 19?

Quarterback Cole Garvin started for an injured Dallas Davis who was out with turf toe. The sophomore was 16-21 for 242 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in his first start as a Jaguar.

“We all knew that Cole was a good quarterback,” said South Alabama head coach Joey Jones. “It was a tough decision this summer when deciding a starter. The only thing you worried about is his experience and how he would react out there with it his first time on the playing field and I think he played great and had one heck of a game.

Jones said he did all the right things including having a calm demeanor, made great throws, had a couple of runs and protected the football.

“I’m so proud of Cole,” said Jones.

South Alabama jumped on the Aztecs early in the first on a Tyreis Thomas 12-yard run. After Gavin Patterson’s extra point, the Jags were on the board 7-0. Thomas lead South Alabama’s run game with 36-yards on 11 carries.

San Diego State answered four minutes later as Rashaad Penny ran 15-yards for an Aztecs touchdown.

Toward the end of the first quarter, Garvin showed off his arm connecting with Kevin Kutchera on a 37-yard pass into the end zone regaining the lead 14-6 after the extra point.

The nation’s leading rusher, Donnel Pumphrey, executed a 7-yard run. The Jaguar defense held Pumphrey to 156 yards on twenty-five carries and one touchdown.

“We knew that [Donnel Pumphrey] would get his runs because he’s a heck of a running back,” said Jones. [Coming into the game] he’s had some 200-yard games against some good football teams. We knew that we had to stop him to have a chance and if we didn’t do that, it was going to be tough. Our defense played really well. San Diego State got us on some things here and there because they are pretty darn good. We knew we we couldn’t stop them all the time, but they didn’t have any big throws on us. We limited their big plays and I’m just proud of the way we played on defense.”

San Diego State scored once more before the half on a 34-yard field goal from John Baron taking the lead into halftime, 16-14.

It was not long into the third quarter when South Alabama scored as Garvin found Gerald Everett on a 79-yard pass widening the gap 21-16. SDS answered on a 12-yard pass from Christian Chapman to Kahale Warring taking the lead for the last time 24-21.

South Alabama dominated the entire fourth quarter and never looked back.

Josh Magee scored on a 20-yard pass just over three minutes into the quarter. Minutes later, as SDS was to punt, a snap over the punter’s head allowed South Alabama to gain possession and take over at the 3-yard line. Dami Ayoola scored on a 1-yard run allowing the Jags to expand the lead to 35-24. Devon Earl then capped off the night on an 80-yard fumble recovery for a final of 42-24.

South Alabama has a bye week next week. Next up, the Jags will travel to Arkanasas State on October 15.