JACKSON, Miss. — Southern lost a fumble on a kickoff return in the first half of Saturday's game at Veterans Memorial Stadium, and the miscue led to a Jackson State touchdown.
But the Jaguars special teams rallied after halftime to play a key role in a 40-34 win.
Southern picked up a safety in the third quarter when Jackson State sailed a punt snap high and out of the end zone. Later, after JSU took a 27-26 lead on a field goal, Brandon Hinton returned the ensuing kickoff 87 yards to put Southern ahead for good.
There was more.
Cesar Barajas had three punts downed inside the JSU 10-yard line in the second half. And after Jackson State scored late in the fourth quarter to pull within six points, Devon Benn recovered an onside kick to put the game away.
“We work (special teams) probably more than anybody in the country,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said. “We practice special teams as much as offense and defense.”
One giant step
The Jaguars had an interesting series in the second quarter, during which they were penalized for holding on consecutive plays. After a screen pass lost 5 more yards, they were faced with a second-and-35 from their 11-yard line.
But Skelton launched a long pass down the right sideline, and Hunter Register twisted around to make a catch falling onto his back for a 43-yard gain.
Southern went on to score its second touchdown on the drive on Skelton’s 29-yard run.
Southern entered the weekend allowing 102.7 yards rushing per game and 3.1 per carry. But the Jaguars surrendered 119 to JSU on 15 carries in the first quarter for a 7.3-yard average.
Most of it came on a 64-yard run by Keshawn Harper on the game’s first snap. Harper had 110 yards rushing at halftime and finished with 208.
Jackson State’s 308 yards rushing were the most by a Southern opponent this season, beating the previous high of 181 by Texas Southern.
Taking a break
Southern quarterback Ladarius Skelton limped off the field after a handoff to Jarod Sims with 3:48 left to play. Bubba McDaniel finished out the series and Southern’s final possession, two plays from its victory formation.
Skelton was in good spirits in a postgame interview.
“Its a little sprain. Its soaking,” he said. “I’ll pop right back. Just get a little treatment and I’ll be good.”
Saturday's game got competitive even before the kickoff when players for both teams were on the field before warmups, jawing at each other. Security personnel and others got between the groups as they moved downfield, and eventually both sides retreated to their respective locker rooms.
Odums improved his record against Jackson State to 8-1 and has won seven consecutive games. ... It was the 65th meeting in the series, which Southern leads 36-29. ... Odums 57-33 overall and 49-18 in SWAC games. It was the sixth victory in seven games for Southern and third consecutive win.
Southern captains for the game were tackle Jodeci Harris, guard Jermiah Abby, defensive back B.J. Harris and safety Montavius Gaines. Southern won the toss and declined the option until the second half. JSU received the opening kickoff.