ITTA BENA, Miss. — Southern revamped its starting secondary for its Southwestern Conference opener Thursday night.
But it was the pass rush that set the tone for the defense at the outset of the Jaguars’ 50-13 victory against Mississippi Valley State at Rice-Totten Stadium.
Southern had just one sack in its season-opening 62-15 loss at Louisiana Tech last week, but the Jaguars had two on the Delta Devils’ first three plays and a third on their second possession. That helped force back-to-back three-and-outs as the Jaguars rolled to a 20-0 lead after one quarter.
On Valley’s second play, Aaron Tiller and Demetrius Carter sacked Quantavious Peterson. On the next play, Donald Phillips sacked Peterson and Kentavious Preston got him on the second possession.
Three new starters
The short-handed secondary caused three changes to the starting lineup.
Freshman Demerio Houston moved into the starting lineup at cornerback in place of Jamar Mitchell, who has a hamstring injury.
Ki-Jana Carter, who started in Mitchell’s place against Louisiana Tech, sustained a shoulder injury in that game.
Martin Henry moved from linebacker to start at nickelback. Rhaheim Ledbetter was the starter there before being declared academically ineligible a week before the season opener. Jamal Jenkins started at nickelback against Tech.
Henry’s move had a trickle-down effect. Roshaud Turner, who had backed up Henry at linebacker, backed him up at nickelback and Preston started at Henry’s former linebacker position.
Coach Dawson Odums and his staff moved a pair of offensive players to help shore up the secondary depth. Wide receiver Justin Morgan alternated with Houston and running back Dakota Starks backed up at safety.
End zone picks
The SU secondary has shown an ability to make big plays.
Last week, cornerback Danny Johnson made two interceptions in the end zone, preventing the final score against Tech from being even more lopsided.
On Thursday, Nicholas McDonald came up with the team’s third interception and his also came in the end zone.
More of the same
Valley must be glad it will be a good year before it sees Southern again.
Thanks to a scheduling quirk, the Delta Devils played consecutive SWAC games against the Jaguars, visiting Southern in their regular-season finale last season before Thursday’s conference opener.
The Jaguars scored the final 44 points in a 44-13 victory last season and they jumped to a 33-0 lead Thursday, giving them 77 straight points in a combined 4½ quarters.
LB Demetrius Carter sat out after suffering a lower leg injury in the second quarter. It was not considered serious. ... Morgan not only played CB for the first time since his freshman season, he had his first career interception in addition to making his first kickoff return since his freshman year and playing his customary role at WR.