PINE BLUFF, Ark. — They call themselves the J-Five. Coach Dawson Odums calls them the “Nickel” because it’s a five man group.
Whatever the moniker, the Southern offensive line set the tone for the Jaguars 31-7 victory over UAPB with its relentless physical play. After hammering the Lions defense all game long, it was the offensive line that put it away with a 95-yard, seven play drive, all on the ground.
“The nickel was pretty good, they’ve been pretty good,” Odums said. “I think they were challenged and a little upset from our last outing. We made a big deal that we weren’t able to run the ball against Florida A&M. We ran the ball on Memphis. They rose to the challenge and I was proud of them because we’re not a good team if we can’t run the ball.”
The offensive line — tackles Jodeci Harris and J’Atyre Harris, guards Jeremy Abby and Jonathan Bishop, and center Jaylon Brinson — lived up to their billing. Called the J-Five because all of their first names begin with the letter 'J,' they got help from subs Dallas Black and Mason Sims who rotated in to keep the group fresh.
Southern rushed for 269 yards on 52 carries, a 5.2 yards per carry average. Chris Chaney led the way with 107 yards on 12 tries for an 8.9 yards average.
Freshman running back Jarod Sims scored his first career touchdown on a 3-yard run in the first quarter. Sims, an Opelousas native who played at Pine Prairie, also had a 3-yard run on third and 1 to convert a first down on Southern’s first drive.
UAPB was without leading rusher Keyshawn Williams, who sat out with a knee injury. Omar Allen, who filled in, scored on a 13-yard touchdown run on his first carry. He entered the game when the Lions' other top rusher, Taeyler Porter, lost his shoe on a 2-yard run.
Southern junior quarterback Ladarius Skelton returned to his hometown as a player for the first time since his high school days when he guided Pine Bluff High School to three 6-A state football title games, winning the last two, and winning another title in basketball. Skelton lost only seven football games in six seasons, from seventh grade through his senior season. In his first visit to Southern for the Alcorn State game in 2015, he committed to the Jaguars, and did so again as a sophomore coming out of Fullerton Community College.
No doubting Thomas
Golden Lions’ coach Cedric Thomas has already exceeded his team’s 2018 win total (2-7) in his inaugural campaign. A graduate and former cornerback at UAPB, Thomas spent six seasons as an assistant at Alcorn State and two of those as defensive coordinator. UAPB was picked to finish last in the SWAC West Division at the conference media day in July. He also coached at Tennessee-Martin, Mississippi Delta Community College and Itawmba Community College.
Back on campus
This was Southern’s first trip to Pine Bluff since 2015. The two teams played in Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium in 2017, a 47-40 Jaguars victory. Southern is 5-3 in Simmons Bank Field, which opened in 2000 and has a capacity of 16,000.
Southern improved to 7-1 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff under Odums. Southern leads the series 46-13. The win also improved Southern to 4-0 as the visiting team against UAPB in Odums' tenure. ... UAPB has outscored its opponents 54-15 in the second quarter. After this weekend, Jackson State is the only SWAC team yet to play a conference game.