Next Level: Southern will have to tangle with Alcorn State quarterback John Gibbs Jr. again

Halloween seems an appropriate day for Southern to face John Gibbs Jr. again.

Alcorn State’s senior quarterback has faced the Jaguars every season since he was a freshman — and twice last season, when the Braves and Southern met a second time in the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game.

So the Jaguars have faced Gibbs about as often as one college team can face one opposing player, and none of the four meetings — all Alcorn wins — has been a treat for Southern.

Gibbs, the SWAC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, has nearly 1,200 yards of total offense and seven touchdowns against coach Dawson Odums’ defense.

“He’s been good since he’s been there, and he’s playing well again this year,” Odums said. “You’ve got to have the right will and have the right effort to have a chance against him. Offensively, they are who they are because of him. You can’t take anything away. He’s produced. We haven’t beaten him, so we know we’re facing a tough challenge.”

Gibbs, who’s 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, has passed for 900 yards and rushed for 247 against the Jaguars. He had his most passing yards (245) and his most rushing yards (132) in a 56-16 rout of Southern in Lorman last season.

“He’s got that long stride,” safety Dionte McDuffy said. “So when he gets in the open field, it’s hard to catch him.”

SWAC teams won’t have to worry about trying to catch Gibbs after this season.

“This is it, right?” Odums asked.

Yes, unless Southern and Alcorn meet again in the SWAC championship game.

Trick or treat.

Four Downs

1. Tops in trenches

Alcorn and Southern are the best teams in the SWAC at getting sacks and at preventing them. Their defenses are tied for the conference lead with an average of four sacks per game. The Braves are allowing the fewest sacks: two in four games. And the Jaguars are allowing the second-fewest: three in five games.

2. Well rested

Alcorn coach Jay Hopson put his team through a game-week routine during its open date last week, its second in three weeks. “We felt it was better to keep us on track with game week-type practices,” he said. Between open dates, the Braves lost to Grambling 35-34 in overtime. Their previous win was four weeks ago.

3. 1-2 punch

Southern has the top rusher in the SWAC, and Alcorn has the top rushing offense. The Jaguars’ Lenard Tillery is averaging 117.0 yards per game, but the Braves have a one-two punch in RB Derry Ragsdale (81.8) and QB John Gibbs Jr. (64.7). As a team, Alcorn averages 273.8 rushing yards, and Southern averages 183.6.

4. Best and worst

The biggest statistical disparity between the teams is third-down and fourth-down defense. Alcorn is the best in the SWAC in both categories, and Southern is the worst. The Braves are yielding 23 percent conversions on third, and 25 on fourth. The Jaguars are allowing 48.1 on third and 80.0 (4-for-5) on fourth.