Southern isn’t the only team watching the scoreboard this weekend. The Jaguars opponent, Jackson State, has a chance to win the Southwest Athletic Conference East Division with two conference games to play.
The Tigers (4-6, 3-2) got off to a slow start but are still in the race with Southern and in-state rival Alcorn State remaining, although the Tigers will need some help.
If JSU wins out and Alcorn beats Alabama A&M this week and Alabama State loses its final SWAC game to Prairie View, JSU will win the division on a tiebreaker. A&M also has a game remaining against Mississippi Valley State.
Southern needs only to beat Grambling in the Bayou Classic to win the West Division, but if the Jaguars also beat Jackson State it could play host to the SWAC title game.
Jackson State is led by quarterback Jalon Jones, who completed 13 of 19 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 130 yards and another TD on 18 carries in last week’s 48-43 loss to Alabama A&M. Jones, a true freshman from Henrico, Virginia, took over for Derrick Ponder.
Keyshawn Harper added 135 yards on 18 carries and Jordan Johnson ran seven times for 84 yards as the Tigers rushed for 361 yards. But the JSU defense allowed 563 yards while A&M quarterback Aqeel Glass threw for 410 yards and four touchdowns.
“Hats off to them, they made plays down the stretch to win the game,” Jackson State coach John Hendrick said. “We needed one more stop down the stretch and didn’t get it done.”
Hendrick, a former assistant at LSU who took over JSU full time after a two-game interim stint last year, said he’s glad he waited to put Jones into the lineup full time.
“This was his coming out party,” Henrdrick said. “People thought I was crazy I didn’t play him before. We played him when it was time for him to play, when he was ready. I’m happy he’s gotten to the point where he’s mature enough. He still has a way to go with some things but has grown as a quarterback and into his leadership role.”
Jones has completed 31 of 65 passes for 556 yards and five touchdowns with three interceptions for the season. He has also rushed for 306 yards and two TDs while averaging 4.6 yards per carry.
“Jones is really good,” Odums said. “He looks like he’s settled down and playing like they thought he was capable. He’s electric, one of the better players in our conference.”
Odums said he expects to have running back Chris Chaney and wide receiver Cameron Mackey back in the fold for Saturday’s game. Both players have missed the past four games.
“Chris Chaney will be healthy to go,” Odums said. “I talked with him yesterday and he felt good. We should get Mackey back, too. We should have some other guys back at practice.”
Jaguars’ wide receiver Hunter Register extended his streak of games with a receiving touchdown to five with his 53-yard catch for a score from Ladarius Skelton. Register has caught 24 passes for 329 yards and six touchdowns in that span. For the season he has 32 catches for 467 yards and eight scores. His eight TDs ties him for fourth with two other players for the most among SWAC players.
Southern moved up on spot from No. 7 to No. 6 in the BOXTOROW HBCU media poll released on Monday. The Jaguars stayed at No. 5 in the coaches poll after Saturday’s 58-7 victory against Virginia University of Lynchburg.
Florida A&M stayed at No. 1 in both polls and received all 20 first place votes from the coaches and all 17 from media.