JACKSON, Miss. — One of Southern’s biggest problems on defense this season has been an inability to stop opponents consistently on third down.
The Jaguars entered their game against Jackson State on Saturday night in Mississippi Veterans memorial Stadium ranked last in the Southwestern Athletic Conference in third-down defense (45.3 percent).
But Southern forced a three and out on each of the Tigers’ first two possession, setting the tone for a first half in which it allowed just one conversion in eight attempts while building a 33-14 halftime lead on its way to a 42-28 victory.
The Jaguars stopped 10 of 14 third downs for the game and also stopped a fourth-and-1 attempt by JSU at the Southern 46 and a fourth-and-4 at the Southern 8.
Not close this time
Southern and JSU had gotten into the habit of playing games that went to the wire in recent seasons.
The past 10 meetings, including two last season when the teams met in the SWAC Championship Game, were one-possession games, the largest margin being eight points.
But Saturday’s game was much different, the first lopsided meeting since a 45-7 Jaguars victory in 2004.
The outcome prevented JSU from evening the all-time series as the Jaguars increased their advantage to 31-29.
Kicking woes continue
JSU didn’t do a whole lot right, but it did figure out hoe to block place-kicks.
After Greg Pittman made his first three PATs, the Tigers blocked the next two. Pittman attempted a 29-yard field goal on the last play of the first half, and JSU blocked that one too.
PATs have been an issue for the Jaguars this season. They entered the game with the lowest PAT conversion percentage in the SWAC (.806, 25-of-31).
On Pittman’s next PAT early in the fourth quarter, he missed wide left.
Kyle Yonke came off the bench to kick a 29-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter.
Big returns pay dividends
The problems in the kicking game were more than offset by big plays in the return game.
Willie Quinn returned a punt 81 yards for a first-quarter touchdown and Jaleel Richardson returned a second-quarter kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown.
That gave the Jaguars four special-teams returns for touchdowns this season. Quinn and Danny Johnson have both returned kickoffs 98 yards for touchdowns.
Bracken back in action
Running back Tyre Bracken returned to action for Southern after a three-game absence because of a shoulder injury suffered against Prairie View.
He got his first carry early in the second quarter and finished with 13 carries for 67 yards.
His return gave the Jaguars a potent rotation that also featured Lenard Tillery and Malcolm Crockett. Tillery rushed for 166 yards and a touchdown and Crockett had 12 yards as Southern ran for 267 yards.