Stuck with no-glory jobs on special teams all season, Southern linebacker Larry Johnson got the big opportunity he always wanted Saturday in a 30-14 win over Alcorn State.
Johnson started. He didn’t disappoint.
“It was everything I expected it to be,” he said.
Johnson, a sophomore walk-on from Capitol High, finished with a team-high 7.5 tackles, leading a defense that had its best performance of the season. The Jaguars held Alcorn to 219 yards from scrimmage, a season low for an SU opponent.
The Braves’ only two touchdowns came on special teams.
Early last week, second-year coach Stump Mitchell promised that Johnson would get the chance to play against Alcorn — mostly because linebackers Jamie Payton, Daniel Brown and Anthony Balancier were suspended, thanks to their roles in the Oct. 15 postgame fight at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, but also because Johnson had earned his chance to play.
“He did not disappoint us, his high school, his family or himself or Baton Rouge,” Mitchell said. “He was good for us tonight, and he’ll get another opportunity to play next week, because Jamie Payton is out for his second game. I’m just excited about Larry.”
Payton will serve the second part of his two-game suspension Saturday when Southern faces Texas Southern in Houston. Six other players will serve suspensions for Southern, though Payton is the only linebacker who must sit out.
‘Great’ way to go out
Lee Almanza came to Southern partly for the chance to win a Southwestern Athletic Conference championship.
In the three-plus seasons since he first enrolled at SU, the Jaguars are 17-24 with no rings.
But as Almanza walked off the field at A.W. Mumford Stadium, he wore a big smile. The senior center won his final home game.
“It was great,” said Almanza, a Houston native. “I had a good time with my family. They’ve supported me every game, and this was my last one here. I feel good.
“I feel great.”
Almanza was one of 16 seniors honored before kickoff Saturday.
Numbers to know
426. Southern gained a season-high 426 yards from scrimmage against Alcorn. The Jaguars gained 185 of those yards in the first quarter.
14. Southern won despite committing a season-high 14 penalties.
0. Saturday’s game marked the first time all year in which Southern did not try to convert on a fourth down. The Jaguars are 4-for-15 on fourth down this season.
“I like their attitude. I’ve always said this: Even though we’ve got a young football team, once we grow up, it’s going to be tough. And we grew up tonight.”
SU defensive coordinator
“Our guys saw that if we don’t play against ourselves, in addition to having to play our opponent, we stand a good chance of winning — and winning big. That’s the bottom line.”
Southern (3-5, 3-3 Southwestern Athletic Conference) plays Texas Southern (3-5, 1-5) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Delmar Stadium in Houston.
TSU suffered a disappointing 12-9 loss to previously winless Mississippi Valley State. The Delta Devils had lost their first 18 games under second-year coach Karl Morgan.
Texas Southern, the reigning conference champion, has not won a SWAC game since Sept. 24, when the Tigers topped Alcorn State 14-7 at Delmar.
Despite four straight conference losses, Texas Southern leads the SWAC in total defense (221.6 yards per game) and rushing offense (178.9 yards per game).