NORMAL, Ala. — Kevin King couldn’t hide his frustration.
King, the starting free safety for Southern, paced back and forth outside the visiting locker room Saturday afternoon at Louis Crews Stadium.
The Jaguars, who had rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit against Alabama A&M to take a 17-10 lead midway through the fourth quarter and again overtime, but couldn’t hang on after Matthew Hill missed the extra point.
Deaunte Mason scored on a 1-yard run in overtime, and Chance Wilson’s extra point sent Southern to a heartbreaking 24-23 Southwestern Athletic Conference loss before an announced crowd of 10,208.
“They’re a good team,” said King, who recorded his first interception of the season early in the second quarter. “We just let them off the hook.”
The loss, Southern’s third in a row and fourth in its past five games, dropped the Jaguars to 3-6 overall and 2-5 in league play. A&M improved to 7-2 and 6-2 in league play.
The loss spoiled an outstanding defensive effort by Southern, who had allowed 99 points in its last two games, blowout losses to Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Prairie View.
Saturday, however, the Jaguars looked like a totally different unit.
Southern held the Bulldogs to 214 yards in total offense and forced two turnovers but couldn’t deliver at crunch time.
“All you can do is give great effort and give yourself a chance to win, and I think we did that,” Southern interim coach Dawson Odums said.
After Brian McCain scored midway through the fourth quarter to give Southern a 17-10 advantage, the Jaguars had a chance to seal the victory after Anthony Balancier picked off a Mason pass to give Southern the ball at the A&M 21.
Unfortunately, the Jaguars couldn’t take advantage of it, and Hill missed a 47-yard field goal.
“If we had scored , it wouldn’t have gotten to that point,” Southern running back Sylvester Nzekwe said.
That left the door open for A&M.
The Bulldogs responded with a 12-play, 70-yard drive to force overtime.
Mason found Smith with a 7-yard touchdown pass, and Wilson’s extra point sent the game into overtime with 30 seconds left.
Southern got the ball first in overtime when Dray Joseph found Rashaun Allen with a 7-yard touchdown pass, but Hill missed the extra point, leaving the Jaguars with a 23-17 lead.
After picking up a first down, A&M faced a fourth-and-11 from the Southern 16.
Mason threw the ball to Terrance Pride in the flat and Pride, who was three yards short of the first down, battled his way and picked it up.
Two plays later, Mason scored and Wilson’s extra point ruined what would have been a big road win for the Jaguars.
“We were in zone coverage,” Odums lamented. “If we do a great job in coverage, we’re off the field and the game is over. We don’t make the tackle. We reached, the guy sidestepped us and ended up getting a first down, and they get the win.”
The loss was Southern’s third by six points or less this season.
“We had a good game plan coming up here,” Southern linebacker Anthony Balancier said. “We wanted to stop the run and make them pass the ball, and we did that.
“This is a hard pill to swallow.”
Alabama A&M struck first to take an early lead midway through the first quarter.
The Bulldogs moved from the Southern 44 to the Jaguars’ 16 before the drive stalled. Wilson came on to kick a 33-yard field goal to give A&M a 3-0 lead with 7:38 left in the first quarter.
Southern went three-and-out on its next possession, and A&M extended its lead.
Kaderius Lacey capped a nine-play, 56-yard when he scored from three yards out on the second play of the second quarter. Wilson’s extra point made it 10-0 with 14:24 left in the first half.
The Jaguars had a chance to score on their last possession, but came away empty.
Southern moved from midfield to a first down at the A&M 17, but went backward.
A holding call and a couple of other negative plays left the Jaguars with a fourth-and-19 from the A&M 26, and Hill’s 33-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Anthony Lanier as time expired.