The Southwestern Athletic Conference office has yet to make a decision on rescheduling Southern’s football game at Prairie View.
The game was originally set for Saturday but postponed because of COVID-19 issues at Prairie View, according to a statement from the league.
Andrew Roberts, assistant commissioner for media relations, said the conference championship game is still set for May 1 at the home site of the division winner with the best record. It will be televised on ESPN2.
Southern (3-1, 2-1) has one game remaining on its schedule, the Bayou Classic on April 17 in Shreveport. Prairie View (2-0) has two games left, at Arkansas-Pine Bluff on April 17 and at Jackson State on April 24. UAPB leads the West Division with a 3-0 record.
Southern athletic director Roman Banks said last week there is a possibility the league could move the championship game back to create another playing date. Jackson State leads the East Division with a 2-1 conference record and Alabama State is 1-1, but Alabama A&M has yet to play a conference game.
Mississippi Valley State is 0-2 and the other East team, Alcorn State, opted out of the spring season.
“There are no plans to move the championship game at this time,” Roberts said. “There has not been a meeting set to determine what change might be made.”
Southern coach Dawson Odums said the later the season goes, the more difficult it is for teams to recover and prepare for the 11-game fall schedule, but that teams have to make the best of it.
“We try to control the things we can,” Odums said. “We knew this season would bring adversity, that schedules were going to change, postponements and cancellations. At the end of the day, you have to adapt and overcome. That’s something everyone has to face.”
Southern played both quarterbacks in Saturday’s victory against Jackson State and coach Dawson Odums said a third, Bubba McDaniel, may come into play. McDaniel is healthy after an injury to his non-throwing hand kept him out thus far.
“He’s going to have a lot to say over the next two weeks about who we play at quarterback,” Odums said of McDaniel. “Skelton is our starter, and we’ll go from there.”
Skelton has started Southern’s past 23 games dating to 2018 but was replaced after his second interception against JSU. He returned to the game after backup John Lampley’s helmet came off, and Skelton sped 33 yards on a key third-and-9 play. Two plays later, Devon Benn ran 20 yards to give Southern a 27-7 lead in the third quarter. The Jaguars won 34-14.
Skelton rushed for 77 yards and the clinching touchdown on 15 carries while completing 6 of 11 passes for 64 yards. Lampley hit 9 of 14 for 116 yards, including a huge 20-yard score to Corey Williams with 8 seconds left in the first half.
“I thought he played really well,” Odums said of Skelton. “He was off target on some of his throws but I thought the decision-making was good. He ran the ball really well, did a great job of reading his keys, making sure he pulled it or gave it at the right time. We were going to play both (Skelton and Lampley); that was the decision we made before the game.”
Arkansas-Pine Bluff is sitting atop the SWAC West Division with a 3-0 record, including a win against Southern, after squeezing by Mississippi Valley 24-17 Saturday.
Former Karr Cougar Tyrin Ralph returned a punt 77 yards for the winning touchdown with 1:54 left, his fourth career kick return for a touchdown. Ralph, a fifth-year senior, ran two kickoffs and punt back for scores as a sophomore in 2018 and was the All-SWAC return man in 2018 and 2019. He has 13 catches for 175 yards.
“He tapped his helmet a couple of times to come out of the game but I told him, ‘You can’t come out right now, you've got to go,’ ” UAPB coach Doc Gamble said. “He said ‘All right, coach.’ I called a timeout so I could get him a breath. That’s how valuable he is.”
Grambling close to return
The Tigers (0-3) are hoping to get back on the practice field on Tuesday of this week after cancelling their last two games against Alabama A&M and Texas Southern.
“We’re getting everybody back in the saddle,” coach Broderick Fobbs said. “We’re continuing to get everybody tested. We’re still not out of the woods yet. We’re testing today, we’ll test again Wednesday and Friday to make sure we’re safe. The soonest we can get back on the field is Tuesday.”
Hanging in there
If the SWAC hands out an award for resiliency at the end of the spring season, it would have to go to Alabama A&M. Picked to win the East Division, the Bulldogs have yet to play a conference game going into Week 7. Coach Connell Maynor’s team has played one game, a 31-7 victory against South Carolina State on March 6.
Twice games against Prairie View have been postponed, including one last week and its game with Grambling the week before that was cancelled. The Bulldogs were leading UAPB 10-3 when a storm forced cancellation of that game in the second quarter.
On Saturday, Alabama A&M is set to play Jackson State, which leads the league with five games played.
The Bulldogs are scheduled to play rival Alabama State in the Magic City Classic on April 17 and a makeup game with Mississippi Valley on April 24.
“Same old, same old,” Maynor said, whose team will have gone 35 days without a full game if it plays Saturday. “We’re ready to play somebody else.”
Southern moved up two spots to No. 3 in both BOXTOROW HBCU polls released Monday. The Jaguars impressed voters with their win against Jackson State, which dropped to No. 7 in the coaches poll and No. 8 in the media poll.
Alabama A&M remained No. 1 and Arkansas-Pine Bluff No. 2 in both polls, with Prairie View and South Carolina at No. 4 and No. 5.