JACKSON, Miss. — The Southern defense knew it had a big challenge against the SWAC’s No. 1 offense and a bevy a talented receivers to catch passes from dual-threat quarterback Jalon Jones.
The Jaguars bent at times but after 60 minutes it added up to a smackdown of the Jackson State offense in a 34-14 victory Saturday.
Southern held the Tigers to 66 yards rushing, sacked Jones four times for 30 yards in losses and picked off one of his passes, which ended JSU’s chances midway through the fourth quarter. Jackson State converted only 1 of 8 third-down opportunities and was stopped on both fourth-down tries.
“I thought our defense played well; we executed the defense well,” coach Dawson Odums said. “We had a great game plan and our guys executed it. When you do that, you give yourself a chance.”
Jackson State entered the game averaging 39 points and 428 yards per game. Jones had 773 yards and nine TDs coming in but the Southern secondary did a good job limiting the Tigers duo of Daylen Baldwin and Corey Reed, both 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds. Baldwin caught a 75-yard scoring passes but only two other passes for 16 yards. Reed had four for 47 and a TD.
One factor was the pass rush, which in addition to the sacks, often chased Jones from the pocket. He rushed for 64 yards on 12 carries minus the sack totals but had a negligible effect on the outcome.
First quarter to remember
Southern totally dominated the first 15 minutes of the game, outgaining Jackson State 142-10, having a 27-6 edge in plays run and 12:34 to 2:26 margin in time of possession. Southern converted 5 of 6 third-down plays and had only one penalty for 5 yards.
Odums obviously spent some time cooking up some deceptive plays. After Southern’s first TD, kicker Cesare Barajas executed a perfect onside kick, tapping the ball forward, following it is closely and pouncing on it after it had gone 10 yards. Barajas also kicked three extra points and two field goals, including a career-long 49-yarder.
Wide receiver Kendric Jones also picked up 24 yards on a reverse, taking a pitch to the right from Skelton, who was running an option play to the left.
Super special teams
Besides the onside kick and two field goals by Barajas, Southern special teams came up with its second blocked punt of the season when Kordell Caldwell broke through to get a big one in the fourth quarter. Jamel Byrd also had one against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. It was the second blocked punt for Caldwell, who had one against Prairie View in 2018. Caldwell just missed getting the scoop-and-score, with the ball rolling out of bounds as he tried to pick it up. Skelton scored on a 2-yard run on the next play.
Sophomore running back Jerodd Sims was a big factor in the Jaguars' passing game with five receptions for 52 yards. Sims entered the game with five catches for 61 yards and two touchdowns and is now tied for the team lead with Brandon Hinton at 10 catches each.
Senior running back Devon Benn scored his first touchdown of the season on a 2-yard run in the first quarter. Benn had 16 career TDs coming into the 2021 spring season. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Corey Williams scored his first career touchdown on a 20-yard pass from quarterback John Lampley.
It was Southern’s eighth consecutive victory in the series, longest for both teams. ... The Jaguars lead the 66-game series with a 37-29 advantage and are 18-14 in Jackson. ... Odums is now 9-1 against Jackson State. Odums is now 62-35 overall and 54-20 against SWAC opponents in his ninth season at Southern. ... The Jaguars are 15-2 after an open date under Odums.
Benn was Southern’s lone game captain for the second consecutive week. Jackson State won the toss and declined the option until the second half. Southern received the opening kickoff.