South Alabama (USA) freshman quarterback Gio Lopez, former James Clemens player, celebrates his winning the Most Valuable Player Award for his play in the 68 Ventures Bowl in Mobile as USA defeated Eastern Michigan 59-10. Photo Contributed

Gio Lopez Leads USA To Bowl Victory

MOBILE- When opportunity knocks, answer the call. That’s exactly what Gio Lopez did as freshman quarterback for the University of South Alabama (USA) Jaguars leading the Mobile based school to its first bowl victory in school history with an impressive 59-10 drubbing of the Eastern Michigan Eagles in the 68 Ventures Bowl in Mobile on Dec. 23.

“The game plan going into the game was to rotate quarterbacks in each series, which we did until the third quarter when I took over the offense,” said Lopez, a freshman at USA and a 2023 graduate of James Clemens High.

 

The 6-foot-1, 223-pound Lopez split playing time with senior Desmond Trotter, who started the game in place of senior Carter Bailey who was out of the lineup due to a knee injury. Trotter was responsible for two early scores as the Jags scored on their first three possessions and led 38-3 at halftime and eventually outgained the Eagles 627-150.

Lopez took his opportunity to heart as he completed 14 of 19 passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for a team-leading 88 yards and one score to earn game Most Valuable Player honors.

“It was good to get out there in my fifth game of the season, my first time not being a starter since I began playing football,” added the left-handed throwing Lopez, who was a dual threat signal caller at James Clemens and All-State selection while with the Jets.

The Jaguars finished 7-6 overall with a 4-4 record in the Sun Belt Conference. In one of its biggest games of the season, USA faced Troy in which Lopez was named as a starter. “In the bowl game, I loved the idea of getting recognized on a national level and being able to play well in front of my family, mother, father, brother and sister, who made the trip to Mobile, was certainly a thrill.”

The 19-year old Lopez is busy as a true freshman getting heavily involved in his studies of business and finance. With confidence now boiling over after the bowl game extravaganza, Lopez is already looking forward to his sophomore season where he wants to be the starting quarterback. As in the lyrics of the 1981 hit song “When You See A Chance” by Steve Winwood, “When you see a chance, take it, because it’s all on you,” Lopez saw it, took it and conquered it, but he wants more.

“My plan to get ready for next season and stay focused on getting myself ready,” said Lopez. “I feel confident. I have the chance, the opportunity to do it.”

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