- Associated Press - Sunday, December 21, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A young South Alabama program battled Bowling Green down to the last minute, and coach Joey Jones had the wounds to prove it.

With cuts on his nose and chin from a sideline mishap with one of his own players, Jones couldn’t be too disappointed in much beyond the final score of Saturday night’s 33-28 loss to the Falcons in the inaugural Camellia Bowl.

“We are a brand-new program and they’ve probably got a few more players than we do,” said Jones, who got kicked in the face. “There we are, a minute and 10 seconds left and we’re up against a program that’s had football for probably 100 years. There are some positives to this but I don’t like losing.”

The Falcons (8-6) responded one play after the Jaguars (6-7) took their first lead.

Roger Lewis scored on a 78-yard touchdown pass from James Knapke with 1:04 left.

The Jaguars, playing in their first bowl game after starting the program in 2009, had moved 73 yards in just under 3 minutes to momentarily take the lead. Brandon Bridge hit Danny Woodson Jr. for a 44-yard strike. Terrance Timmons had a 3-yard touchdown run after converting two third-down plays with runs.

Bowling Green couldn’t convert the 2-point try after its final score but Jude Adjei-Barima picked off Bridge’s pass on South Alabama’s next play. The Jaguars forced a punt with 31 seconds left, but were called for roughing the kicker to allow Bowling Green to run out the clock.

Knapke was 25 for 39 passing for 368 yards and two long touchdowns to Lewis, who capped the first drive with a 44-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-2 play. He became the first Bowling Green freshman to reach 1,000 yards receiving and finished with four catches for 137 yards.

Gehrig Dieter had 108 yards on seven catches. Travis Greene gained only 41 yards on 20 carries but also ran for two touchdowns.

The Falcons’ fast-paced offense had scored nine touchdowns on drives of a minute or less, so the end-of-game situation was nothing too new.

“I really didn’t have much jitters, because this is what we practice every day - 1-minute offense, 2-minute offense,” Lewis said.

Bridge rallied from a slow start to pass for 279 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted twice. Woodson gained 122 yards on six catches.

South Alabama had twice closed within six points in the second half, only to watch Bowling Green return a short kickoff to near midfield.

The first time produced one of many quick-strike touchdown drives for Bowling Green. On the second, the Falcons’ Tyler Tate pushed an 18-yard field goal wide left with 8:25 remaining. Tate had set Bowling Green’s record for field goals in a season and career.

The game saw both an official and Jones get banged up. Jaguars tight end Ryan Onkka caught a ball on the sideline and his feet came up and smacked Jones in the face, giving him a bloody nose.

“It kind of felt good, blood dripping off the face,” said Jones, a former Alabama receiver. “It felt like the old days.”

In the third quarter, side judge Craig Falkner was hurt when he apparently was struck in the right leg by an object heaved from the stands.

The game itself was pretty hard-hitting, too.

South Alabama linebacker Maleki Harris set a school record with 18 tackles, including three for a loss.

The Jaguars were in their second season as an FBS program, and made a bowl quicker than any other new program. Jones hopes it’s only the beginning.

“We’re a young program and we’re going to start winning these games in the near future,” he said, “and a lot of that’s going to have to do with the fact that this 2014 team put us on the map.”

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