Southern linebacker Demetrius Bentley can still remember his only other trip to Delmar Stadium in Houston.
It was Dec. 5, 2009. A cold, clear day. It should have been a lovely night. Instead, the Jaguars’ bus ride home was downright miserable.
“A very bad bus ride home. That’s all I can say. It was a very, very bad bus ride home,” Bentley said. “Quiet. It was very quiet.”
Earlier that afternoon, in an anticlimactic season finale against Texas Southern, the Jaguars took a two-point fourth-quarter lead, then later missed a field goal.
TSU moved into position to kick a game-winning field goal, but Demetric Rogers blocked it with 1:23 remaining, seemingly securing a win for Southern.
Then the unthinkable happened. Poor clock mismanagement forced SU to put, and the Tigers’ Joe Anderson scored on a 16-yard catch with 16 seconds left, giving TSU a 30-25 win.
“It felt like we had it under control the whole game, for the most part — even though we didn’t come out with a victory,” said Bentley, who sheepishly grinned and shook his head as he recalled the loss.
The Jaguars finished 6-5 overall that season, but the loss at Delmar was a significant moment in SU football history.
It was the last game of the 17-year Pete Richardson era.
Two days later, Richardson agreed to a buyout of the final year of his contract, and the following month, SU hired Stump Mitchell.
Bentley, Rogers and TSU’s Anderson are all seniors now.
They’ll meet again at 6 p.m. Saturday in Delmar Stadium, when the Jaguars (3-5, 3-3 Southwestern Athletic Conference) face Texas Southern (3-5, 1-5), the reigning champion.
Southern, fresh from a 30-14 homecoming win against Alcorn, has three games left, including Saturday’s trip to Houston — and Bentley said the team has one thing in mind.
“We want to close this season out with some victories,” he said.
Tight race in West
Throughout much of the past two months, grimaces were in high demand among Southern fans, who watched their favorite team lose four games by a total of 13 points.
Still, despite all those near-misses, the Jaguars have a shot at finishing first in the SWAC Western Division.
SU is locked in a three-way tie with Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Grambling for second place, a half-game behind Prairie View.
The Jaguars would need help to obtain an outright first-place finish; UAPB and Prairie View own head-to-head tiebreakers against Southern, which faces Grambling in the Bayou Classic on Nov. 26.
Still, talk of first place sure beats talk of another 2-9 record, which Southern produced in Mitchell’s first year.
“We mentioned (the division race) briefly to the players,” Mitchell said. “But we will spend the majority of our time talking about our opponent, Texas Southern. That’s what’s important.”
Rebound for Hawkins?
Mitchell said receiver Charles Hawkins will probably start Saturday in place of LaQuinton Evans, who’s serving his one-game suspension for fighting at Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Oct. 15.
Hawkins had nine catches for 187 yards and a touchdown when he left the Jackson State game Sept. 17 with a concussion. At the time, he was the team’s second-leading receiver.
When he returned two weeks later, Hawkins played despite having a severely sprained ankle — he originally thought it was a problem with his Achilles’ heel.
“Charles ... appeared to run pretty well — almost back to his full speed (against Alcorn State),” Mitchell said. “So he will definitely be one of those starters, unless he can’t practice a whole lot this week.”
Hawkins practiced Tuesday. He has 11 catches for 212 yards.
Lee Doss, suspended for the Alcorn game, will return to action this week. He is the team’s third-leading receiver, with 23 catches for 278 yards and two touchdowns.
Jaguars in October
Southern finished 2-2 in October this season, marking only the third time since 2005 that the Jaguars were .500 in that month.
SU is 9-18 in October games over the past seven seasons. The team also went 2-2 in 2008 and ’09, but has not been above .500 since 2004, when it went 5-0 in October en route to an 8-4 overall record and the SWAC Western Division title. The Jaguars lost to Alabama State 40-35 in the conference championship game.
This season, Southern defeated Mississippi Valley State and Alcorn State, but suffered losses to Prairie View and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Southern is 9-9 in November games since 2005.
Directions to Delmar
Delmar Stadium, the 12,000-seat site of Saturday’s game, is nowhere near TSU’s campus south of downtown Houston. But it is fairly easy to find.
From Baton Rouge, take Interstate 10 heading west.
Upon entering Houston, take the Interstate 610 loop, heading north, then west. Then take Exit 12 toward Hempstead Road. Turn right on Hempstead Road, passing by Northwest Mall. Then turn right onto Mangum Road.
Delmar Stadium is on the right, at 2020 Mangum Road.
Saturday’s game will be a homecoming of sorts for Southern wide receiver Jordan Bilbo, wide receiver William Waddel, quarterback Wynton Perro and tight end Robert Sanchez, whose high schools played their home games at Delmar Stadium. ... Southern will wear white jerseys and white pants at Texas Southern. It’s the first time the Jaguars have worn that combination all season. ... The National Weather Service’s Saturday forecast for Houston calls for a 20-percent chance of showers, with a high of 75 and a low of 62.