MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Last week, Southern football coach Stump Mitchell said he planned to use freshman J.P. Douglas as his starting quarterback for the rest of the season.
He changed his mind, starting sophomore Dray Joseph when the team faced Alabama State in the Cramton Bowl on Saturday.
Before long, it didn’t matter. Out of necessity, Douglas came in - and that turned out well for Southern, which scored with 9 seconds left to top the Hornets 26-23.
Joseph suffered a concussion in the second quarter when, after throwing an incomplete pass, his smacked the hard artificial turf. He eventually returned to the visitor’s sideline and watched the game in warmups.
Joseph completed seven of 16 passes for 72 yards before his exit.
In went Douglas, who had replaced Joseph as the No. 1 quarterback, starting the Jaguars’ previous three games.
“I know what I needed to do,” Douglas said. “I mean, it’s nothing new, so I’m trying to control the offense and put points on the board.”
Douglas did that just well enough, completing 22 of 35 passes for 259 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. He also led Southern on its game-winning possession, when the team took over with 2:59 remaining and traveled 73 yards in 10 plays.
“We were just telling the guys and telling each other to be patient, to calm down and come out with a win,” Douglas said.
Five turnovers for ASU
Heading into this weekend, Alabama State ranked third in the nation with a plus-19 turnover margin.
That number took a dip Saturday, down to plus-18 - thanks to five turnovers.
The Hornets fumbled four times, and quarterback Devin Dominguez threw a third-quarter interception.
The five giveaways were a season high. ASU had three turnovers twice this season: against Alcorn State on Oct. 1, and against Alabama A&M on Oct. 29.
Southern, for its part, had four giveaways: two fumbles by Sylvester Nzekwe, one fumble by LaQuinton Evans and one interception by Douglas.
Alabama state champs
Saturday’s win gave the Jaguars a sweep over its Alabama rivals, Alabama A&M and Alabama State.
Southern dropped A&M 21-6 at A.W. Mumford Stadium on Sept. 10.
Alabama A&M and Alabama State are the only two Eastern Division teams still alive for a berth in the SWAC Championship game.
Jackson State, which could still clinch a share of first place, is ineligible to play in the title game. Like Southern, JSU was banned from the game as a result of a substandard Academi Progress Rate score.
Williams stays home
Southern cornerback Virgil Williams, who suffered a concussion in last week’s loss at Texas Southern, did not make the trip to Montgomery. John Mack started in his place. Also, backup safety Mychal Bell, who suffered a hand injury at TSU, did not play.
On offense, Southern began in a two-tight-end formation, with offensive linemen Aaron Hall and Brandon Thibodeaux working as the extra tight ends. Later on, SU targeted another tackle/tight end, Clinton Boyd, with a pass in the end zone (it was incomplete).
On defense, junior Mack, a transfer from East Stroudsurg, made his first start of the season at left cornerback. Mack began the season as the team’s top nickel back, but soon lost out to D’Mekus Cook. The team began in a nickel package, with Cook as the extra corner and seniors Jared Detrick and Jamie Payton at linebacker. Defensive end Jeffrey Watkins did not start, but came of the bench for two sacks.
Defensive tackle Casey Narcisse started for the first time in more than a month, although Dexter James also played.
Attendance for Saturday’s game at the Cramton Bowl was announced at 8,255 - the smallest crowd for an Alabama State home game all season. The second-smallest crowd for a game in Montgomery was Sept. 17, when the Hornets beat Grambling 31-17 before 11,563 fans.
To Douglas, who was 5-of-8 passing on the game-winning touchdown drive.