Picking up five turnovers can win a lot of ballgames, but it wasn’t quite enough Saturday night as Jackson State edged Southern University 28-24 with a fourth- quarter touchdown.
The Jaguars defense had four takeaways in the second half alone when Southern took a 24-21 lead. In the end, the difference wasn’t the opportunities created by Southern rather it was the inability to finish off those chances.
“We weren’t able to capitalize,” Southern coach Stump Mitchell said. “I wish (the defense) could have gotten off the field a couple of times in third- and-long situations, but they’re working extremely hard.”
For the game, Jackson State converted 10 of 18 on third down while Southern was just 3 for 16.
“Jackson State did what we couldn’t do on third down,” Mitchell said. “We didn’t convert enough.”
Linebacker Jamie Payton led Southern with superlatives in almost every defensive category. The senior, who played at Dutchtown High, had 11 tackles including a sack and two tackles-for-loss. He also had an interception, and recovered two fumbles.
“Jamie is a team leader,” Mitchell said. “We’re glad to have him. He plays the game hard and he practices hard.”
So far, through three games, Southern’s defense has been on the field 74 more plays than the Jaguars offense. Still, Payton found no solace in statistics, and was critical in his assessment of the defense’s performance against JSU.
“All of the turnovers we caused was a good thing, but the little things we do, we had missed tackles, missed assignments, penalties,” Payton said. “We have to correct these things because they could have made the difference.”
Southern’s defense forced turnovers on three of four Jackson State possessions midway through the third quarter.
Trailing 21-17, Southern got a boost when Payton returned an interception of JSU’s Casey Therriault to the JSU 28. Southern stalled, and Manuel Canto’s 39-yard field goal try was wide left on fourth down.
Cornerback D’Mekus Cook intercepted Therriault on JSU’s next series, but it led nowhere again. Southern was flagged for a chop block on first down, and eventually punted back to JSU.
This time, Southern pinned JSU against its goal line, and forced a punt. Virgil Williams returned the punt 12 yards, and another 15 yards was tacked on for a facemask penalty.
Dray Joseph then connected with Lee Doss for a 14-yard touchdown and a 24-21 lead.
“We left two or three touchdowns on the field,” Southern offensive tackle Chris Browne said. “The defense did a heck of a job. As an offense we have to convert, but we had some protection breakdowns, and we had some miscues. We have to do a better job.”
Jackson State drove to a first-and-goal at the SU 5 following Doss’ score. But Therriault mishandled a shotgun snap, and Levi Jackson recovered for Southern at the JSU 10.
It was the last hurrah for Southern’s defense, which began to wear down in the fourth quarter.
“I feel good about the way we’re playing, and the way we’ve been practicing,” Mitchell said. “This was a tough loss, but I know what to expect on Tuesday. These guys are going to come back to practice, and prepare to beat FAMU.”