As Southern gave away a 16-point second-half lead Saturday and suffered an agonizing 38-33 loss to Florida A&M in Atlanta, the Jaguars offense certainly played a part in the collapse.
Southern gained only 50 yards from scrimmage after halftime, and the offensive line gave up two key sacks in the fourth quarter.
But those two sacks may have come, in part, because SU’s line suffered a cluster of injuries which forced the team to undergo an impromptu makeover.
Late in the second quarter, junior left tackle Chris Browne hit the deck with what appeared to be an ankle injury, although coach Stump Mitchell said he didn’t know the exact nature of the injury. Browne returned for a handful of plays in the third quarter but sat out all of the fourth quarter.
Also, freshman left guard Zach Brown, who made his first college start Saturday, left during the second half with what appeared to be an ankle injury. He was later seen on crutches.
Those injuries forced Southern into a frenzied reshuffling mode.
The team moved sophomore Taylon Jones from right tackle to left tackle, a spot he’d never played before in college. SU then sent sophomore Clinton Boyd into the game at right tackle.
Boyd, an Atlanta native, has spent most of his college career at right tackle — but just before the Sept. 3 season opener, Boyd changed positions after three tight ends were ruled academically ineligible. In the Jaguars’ first three games, he played almost exclusively as a blocking tight end.
The juggling act wasn’t over yet.
Jones then left the lineup with what appeared to be a minor injury, forcing Boyd to left tackle.
Southern then inserted another true freshman, Donald Glover, into the lineup.
Mitchell said he had hoped to redshirt Glover, who hails from Woodbine, Ga., and attended Mitchell’s old high school, Camden County High.
The injuries left Southern with little choice but to play the freshman, he said.
“That’s part of football,” Mitchell said. “They lost people, too, so I’m not going to make an excuse there. That’s not why we lost the ballgame.”
Still, two of FAMU’s five sacks came in the last 10 minutes of the game as the Rattlers turned their 16-point deficit into a five-point lead.
The final sack came on Southern’s last drive, on second-and-9 from the FAMU 22-yard line, when defensive linemen Padric Scott and Jerry Willis dropped quarterback Dray Joseph for a 6-yard loss, forcing a third-and-15.
The Jaguars’ drive ended two plays later on fourth-and-5, when Joseph threw an interception to cornerback Marvin Ross.
Mitchell said he didn’t yet know the long-term status of Browne, Brown or Jones, though he said Brown will probably undergo an MRI exam early this week.
Numbers to know
101. Joseph had thrown 101 consecutive pass attempts without an interception. His 13th attempt Saturday was picked off by FAMU’s Anthony Shutt in the second quarter, after which quarterback J.P. Douglas entered the game. Joseph finished with three interceptions Saturday.
92. Through four games, Southern’s defense has been on the field for 92 more plays than its offense. Saturday against FAMU, the defense had 18 more plays than the offense.
0. In four games this season, Southern has scored zero points in the fourth quarter. Opponents have outscored the Jaguars 27-0 in the final period.
“We pretty much knew, with the way the second half started going, that the defense was going to have to win the game. We didn’t come through.”
SU cornerback Virgil Williams
“It was a tough loss. ... We win and lose as a team. That’s the way it’s going to be.”
Southern (1-3) faces Mississippi Valley State (0-4) at 2 p.m. Saturday in Itta Bena, Miss., at Rice-Totten Stadium.
The Delta Devils are winless in 14 games under second-year coach Karl Morgan, but they nearly pulled off an upset Saturday at Prairie View.
Valley had a one-point lead in the fourth quarter but couldn’t hold it in a 43-34 loss.