It was a collaborative effort Saturday night as Southern University vanquished its seven-game losing streak with a 21-6 win over Southwestern Athletic Conference rival Alabama A&M.
The Southern offense scored two pacesetting touchdowns in the first 7 minutes, and the Jaguars defense responded with just as much heart.
A week earlier, Southern’s defense surrendered more than 300 yards on the ground as it was manhandled by Tennessee State’s physical offensive line.
But the defense showed its resiliency and held the Bulldogs to just 60 yards on the ground.
“We wanted to control the clock, and keep (Alabama A&M) off the field some,” Southern coach Stump Mitchell said of the Jaguars’ approach.
“Last week, Tennessee State was just much bigger than us.”
Linebacker Jamie Payton led the Jaguars with 10 tackles. Defensive backs Virgil Williams and Demetric Rogers had three pass breakups apiece and the defensive line came up with two sacks among six tackles for loss.
“Coming off a loss like last week, we had a bitter taste in our mouth all week at practice,” Williams said. “Coach Mitchell told us, even if the offense isn’t clicking, we have to keep stopping them.”
Southern’s offense clicked early against Alabama A&M, and the Jaguars defenders kept stopping the Bulldogs.
“Before the game we promised the defensive backs we would put pressure on the quarterback so we could make their job easier,” defensive tackle Kedy Enabulele said. “That’s our job.”
It was a job that got a boost when Southern scored 14 points in the game’s first 7 minutes.
“We were trying to maintain our gaps and play the zones they tried to throw at us,” Enabulele said. “We wanted to get pressure on the quarterback and make sure they couldn’t run the gaps.”
The Bulldogs’ first two possessions were a microcosm of the frustration the Southern defense caused. Alabama A&M moved to a first down at the SU 35-yard line but eventually missed a long field goal try. Pressure on a third-down pass helped set up the sequence.
A&M drove inside the SU 20 on its second series, but Southern held on downs. The Bulldogs finally got on the scoreboard in the second period, but only after stalling at the Southern 10.
In the third quarter, A&M drove to the Southern 15 before running into problems. The Bulldogs settled for another field goal after Casey Narcisse and Arthur Miley sacked A&M’s Deaunte Mason on third down.
“Overall, as a defensive line, I felt like we put pressure on the quarterback and stayed in our gaps,” Enabulele said. “For myself, I put some pressure on the quarterback, but I missed two sacks. I ran gassers after the game to punish myself for the misses.”
Alabama A&M was still within two scores when it drove inside the SU 20 midway through the fourth quarter. The Jaguars forced two incompletions and held running back Terrell Bacie a yard short of the first-down conversion on fourth down.
The Bulldogs had one final chance as they moved to the SU 24 in the closing seconds, but Mason threw four incompletions as the clock ran down.
It was a welcome change from a year ago when Mason led A&M to a 34-14 win over Southern.
“Last year, (Mason) hurt us with his legs,” Williams said. “We watched film and saw the mistakes we made, all the missed tackles. Today, we swarmed the ball, and that was a big key.”
It was key because it meant Southern was executing its gameplan to perfection — make Alabama A&M beat Southern through the air.
And as the last four incompletions showed, Southern’s defense made sure that didn’t happen.