JACKSON, Miss. — Southern quarterback Glendon “Bubba” McDaniel has done this before, stepping up and performing his role.
This time, it’s going to stick.
McDaniel threw five touchdown passes in Southern's 38-25 victory against Mississippi Valley State at Memorial Stadium. Not only did Southern (2-2, 1-0) snag its first Southwestern Athletic Conference victory, McDaniel also cemented his hold on the starting job.
“It’s permanent until it’s not permanent,” Southern coach Jason Rollins said afterward. “The starter right now is Glendon McDaniel.
“We always judge on wins and losses. (He had) no turnovers, that’s always a plus. He hit some timely third downs and showed a lot of poise out there. It was exactly what we thought it would be.”
Most important matchups, players to watch and a prediction for the Jaguars' Southwestern Athletic Conference opener.
What Rollins didn't want was an inconsistent defense that kept Valley within striking distance when it appeared Southern would blow the Devils (0-3, 0-1) out.
But with McDaniel at the helm, the offense answered every challenge. Southern led 24-6 at the half and never let the Devils get closer than the final margin.
McDaniel started in place of senior Ladarius Skelton, whose two second-half turnovers last week allowed McNeese State to rally for a victory after trailing 21-10 at halftime. McDaniel subbed in for an injured Skelton to help Southern to its other victory against Miles College, learning of his first start just before game time.
He got the word last Monday that he would get his second start against Valley.
Here's what the Jaguars must do to defeat Mississippi Valley on Sunday in Jackson, Mississippi.
“I felt I did all right,” said McDaniel, a junior from Dothan, Alabama. “As a team, we’ve got to get better. All week just trying to take care of the ball. That was the emphasis. I feel like that’s what I did. I’m just trying to lead my team.
“It helps to know all week you’re going to start because you get those one (first-team) reps. It was a great opportunity.”
McDaniel threw scoring passes to five different receivers and finished 18 of 26 for 235 yards. He was supported by the usual strong Southern running game that has been hampered by attrition. With Jerodd Sims hurt, Devon Benn out of the first half for a targeting suspension and Craig Nelson getting injured during the game, freshman Kobe Dillon and wide receiver Brandon Hinton filled in the gaps.
Dillon, recruited as a quarterback, ran 13 times for 109 yards, including a 54-yard run to set up a 12-yard TD pass from McDaniel to Marquis McClain just before the half to make it 24-6. Hinton entered to give Dillon a rest and contributed 37 yards on five carries.
“All spring he was doing it to us on scout team, and he finally got his opportunity to show what he can do on a Saturday night,” Rollins said of Dillon. “Our running back-by-committee is a testament to our offensive line."
McDaniel hit tight end Ethan Howard for an 18-yard score, and Jamar Washington with a flip pass on a speed sweep in the first half. In the second, he found Tyler Kirkwood for a 46-yard TD to answer a Valley scoring drive to start the second half. When Valley came back with another TD to cut the lead to 31-19, McDaniel bought time with his footwork and found Travis O’Connor with a 13-yard scoring pass for the final points.
The Jaguars set the tone with a 14-play drive to start the game, capped by Luke Jackson’s 43-yard field goal. Valley responded with a touchdown, but Southern came right back to take the lead for good on McDaniel’s TD to Howard.
Defensively, Southern played a Jekyll and Hyde game. The Jaguars would get a three-and-out only to allow a three-play scoring drive. Caleb Johnson rushed for 87 yards for the Devils, and senior transfer quarterback Jalani Eason — making his first start — completed 18 of 27 passes for 210 yards and three scores with one interception.
A bitter loss can linger like a bad taste in the mouth. Fortunately for Southern football, there’s plenty to look forward to.
“Very inconsistent,” Rollins said of the defense. “You get a three-and-out and you have momentum. Then you get some untimely runs. Missed fits, some things that need to be cleaned up. It wasn’t tackling, it was alignment. They (Valley) did a little tempo and we were working with some new pieces to get chemistry. So, it was personnel driven.”
Southern's defense finally made the play to snuff out Valley’s last chance. The Jaguars failed twice on fourth down in their own territory, but defensive tackle Camron Peterson came up with a fourth-down sack of Eason late in the game.
Peterson led Southern with seven tackles, including three for losses. Jalen Ivy and Jordan Lewis also had sacks, and Jakoby Pappillion had an interception.
“We played good complementary football by all three phases of the game,” Rollins said. “Whenever we needed a stop on defense, we got one. Whenever we needed a score on offense we got one.”