ATHENS, Ga. — Southern has a football team, too.
Much of the attention around these parts leading up the Jaguars’ game at No. 7 Georgia on Saturday focused on Southern’s widely acclaimed marching band.
The expectation was that the Bulldogs would have victory in hand well before the Human Jukebox took the field for halftime at Sanford Stadium, allowing the faithful to relax and enjoy the show before looking ahead to next week’s Southeastern Conference game against Alabama.
But the Jaguars football team created some anticipation for the second half as well.
Southern settled down after falling behind by 17 points in the first quarter, closed within 11 and was behind just 14 points at halftime.
“Nobody likes to lose,” Jaguars coach Dawson Odums said. “But considering the opponent we were taking on, I thought our guys competed. I thought they played hard. I thought they tried to execute the game plan that we had in place. I thought in the first half our guys played as good as they could have played.”
But Georgia flexed its muscles and scored four touchdowns in the third quarter to roll to a 48-6 victory.
“In the third quarter, they showed you big boy football,” Odums said. “They showed you why they play in the SEC. It came down to winning one-on-one.”
Nonetheless, the Jaguars (2-2) gave a respectable account of themselves. They have an open date next week before resuming Southwestern Athletic Conference play at Alabama State on Oct. 10. Southern is 2-0 in the SWAC.
Nick Chubb ran for two touchdowns, Sony Michel ran for one and Greyson Lambert threw a touchdown pass to Malcolm Mitchell during the third-quarter blitz for Georgia (4-0).
Chubb, who had a 24-yard touchdown reception as Georgia took a 17-0 first-quarter lead, finished with 15 carries for 131 yards, 100 of which came in the third quarter.
“He’s a good back,” Southern nose tackle Gabe Echols said. “You can’t tackle him up high; you’ve got to go down low. For the most part, we knew coming in that he was going to be a load. We brought him down as a unit, and we were able to contain him (in the first half).”
The Bulldogs led 20-6 before taking the second-half kickoff and marching 65 yards to a touchdown. Chubb ran the final 9 yards.
Lambert’s scoring pass to Mitchell concluded a three-play, 37-yard drive; Chubb’s 49-yard run completed a two-play, 56-yard drive; and Michel’s 58-yard run capped a three-play, 74-yard drive.
“I challenged our (offensive) line at halftime,” Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said. “We weren’t controlling the line like we’re used to. Once we got space for the backs, good things happened. The whole key was when the line took over.”
Southern began the second quarter by completing a 14-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that consumed 7:59.
Three times during the drive, the Jaguars converted third downs. On third-and-4, Austin Howard completed a 4-yard pass to Willie Quinn; on third-and-5, Lenard Tillery ran for 12 yards; and on third-and-5, Howard and Quinn connected for 9 yards.
The streak ended when Howard overthrew Mike Jones on third-and-8 and Southern lined up to try a 50-yard field goal. Instead, Odums called a timeout and sent the offense back on the field; Howard threw a 16-yard completion to Randall Menard. On the next play, Tillery ran 16 yards for his sixth touchdown of the season, powering the final couple of yards after two defenders hit him.
“When I saw that big old ‘G’ at the goal line, I wasn’t going down,” Tilllery said.
The Jaguars’ two-point attempt failed, but they got the ball right back when Aaron Tiller and Daniel Brown sacked Lambert on third down as the Southern sideline erupted and the crowd of 92,746 went silent.
The Bulldogs’ punt went out of bounds at the Jaguars 44, but Howard sandwiched two incompletions around a 6-yard run by Malcolm Crockett and Southern punted.
Brice Ramsey replaced Lambert and hit completions of 13, 21, 30 and 7 yards, but on third-and-5 his completion to Isaiah McKenzie yielded just 2 yards after an open-field tackle by Danny Johnson.
Marshall Morgan’s 25-yard field goal gave the Bulldogs a modest 20-6 halftime lead, but when the teams returned to the field, the Georgia margin finally expanded to the extent most anticipated from the outset.
“Everybody in the country knew Georgia was going to run the ball in the second half,” Odums said. “The deciding factor is in the players. You see the nutrition, you see the difference in dollars, and I think that’s why the separation in the game took place.”
Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.