LORMAN, Miss. — Alcorn State was the last team to beat Southern before the Jaguars began their run to the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship last season.
The Braves beat Southern again Saturday, 56-16 at Spinks-Casem Stadium, and they looked like a team capable a making a run at a SWAC title of their own.
Alcorn overcame four turnovers by accumulating 682 yards, including 410 rushing, as it posted three times as many third downs as the Jaguars (39-13). It held the Jaguars scoreless in the second half and improved to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the SWAC.
“I told the players, ‘Hey, we got beat tonight. We admit that,’ ” Southern coach Dawson Odums said. “Does the score indicate they were much better than us? That’s what the score says. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Alcorn’s John Gibbs Jr. led the way by passing for 224 yards and a touchdown and running for 34 yards and a touchdown.
Anthony Williams III, who’s from Jeanerette, and Darryan Ragsdale both rushed for more than 100 yards. Williams had 151 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries, and Ragsdale had 125 yards and one touchdown on 13 carries.
“They’re a well-oiled machine,” Southern linebacker Demetrius Carter said. “They kept running the same plays; they just ran them out of different formations. The most frustrating part is we were there to make plays and just didn’t execute.”
The Jaguars, losing to the Braves for the third consecutive season, are 2-3 and 1-1 heading into their homecoming game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff this coming Saturday.
Southern went into halftime trailing 28-16 but looking like the more confident team coming off the field after scoring twice in the final 4½ minutes of the second quarter.
It had a chance to build on that momentum early in the third quarter, but as it did most of the night, it didn’t take advantage of the opportunity.
The Jaguars, who recovered three Braves fumbles in the first half, grabbed a fourth on the first possession of the third quarter. Rhaheim Ledbetter knocked the ball loose, and Blake Monroe recovered at the Alcorn 49.
Southern didn’t get a first down, and Paul Randle Soden’s punt went out of bounds at the Braves 2. Alcorn zipped through the defense, and Jaborian McKenzie ran 21 yards for a momentum-changing touchdown. The Braves increased the lead to 49-16 on Williams’ touchdown runs of 45 yards and 1 yard. Josh Ivery’s 12-yard touchdown run concluded the scoring with 2:37 remaining.
“We started out pretty good,” Jaguars running back Lenard Tillery said, “but as the game went on, they adapted to what we were doing. We couldn’t seem to get the ball past the first-down marker. We had a lot of opportunities to score, but it seemed like we would go three-and-out or miss an assignment or drop the ball. We were not hitting on offense tonight.”
The Jaguars threatened right away, taking the opening kickoff and using a 38-yard completion from Austin Howard to Reggie Travis to reach the Alcorn 14 before stalling. Greg Pittman’s 36-yard field goal was tipped by Anthony Williams Jr. and fell short.
The Braves quickly drove across midfield before Gabe Echols knocked the ball loose from Ragsdale and Bryan Anderson recovered for the Jaguars at their 39.
On third-and-4, Howard’s pass was tipped and went to Justin Morgan, who sprinted up the left sideline for a 55-yard touchdown.
Alcorn tied the score later in the quarter when Zerick Rollins threw a 35-yard halfback pass to LaDarrien Davis for a touchdown.
The Braves took the lead for good when Ragsdale completed an 89-yard drive by running 12 yards for a touchdown.
Southern gave the ball right back when Howard lost a fumble at his 38. Williams ran three times for 35 yards and, on third-and-goal, Gibbs threw a 6-yard touchdown to Alondrea Young for a 21-7 lead.
The lead grew to 28-7 on Gibbs’ 23-yard scoring run before the Jaguars had a strong finish to the half.
Willie Quinn returned the ensuing kickoff 76 yards to the Braves 26, setting up Pittman’s 37-yard field goal.
Alcorn drove into scoring range before Blake Monroe forced a fumble by Williams and Anderson recovered at the Jaguars 23. Southern punted and got the ball back when Jamal Jenkins knocked the ball loose from Williams and Jamaal Martin recovered at the Braves 25.
Howard’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Quinn got Southern within 28-16 after Pittman’s extra point attempt was blocked.
It was all Alcorn from there on.