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Southern running back Jarod Sims (48) celebrates scoring the winning touchdown against Grambling during the second half of the 46th Annual Bayou Classic at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019. Southern won 30-28.

Southern freshman running back Jarod Sims hasn’t been hiding in the weeds this season, he’s been growing like one.

Sims had a breakout game that helped save Southern in Saturday’s 30-28 Bayou Classic victory against Grambling State. He led the Jaguars with 89 yards on seven carries and scored two touchdowns. The latter TD came on a 36-yard dash with 6:24 remaining in the game.

Southern is hoping his emergence can help in Saturday’s Southwest Athletic Conference Championship Game at Alcorn State at 3 p.m. in Spinks-Casem Stadium. The game will broadcast on ESPNU.

Sims (6-feet, 195 pounds) has played in 11 of 12 games and made an impression early in camp with his ability, especially in the power department. He was used early in the season in short yardage situations but because of a combination of his improvement and injuries in the backfield, has come on strong in November.

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“J.J. (Sims) does a great job for us, a great young guy and very humble,” Southern center Jaylon Brinson said. “Coach (offensive coordinator Chennis) Berry likes to say he’s everything you look for in a running back.

“Our coaches took notice he was a very good downhill runner and used him in short yardage this year early. J.J. stayed patient and humble. He’s been given more opportunities and as you saw Saturday he’s taking advantage of them.”

Sims also showed he was clutch when Southern gambled on an untimed down at the end of the first half. Instead of playing it safe with a field goal from the one-yard line, Berry put the ball in Sims’ hands and he crashed through to make the score 21-17 and give the Jaguars a huge momentum boost.

In the same situation in the first quarter, Southern failed to get into the end zone and had to settle for a field goal.

“He’s been coming on, getting more touches as we go through the season,” coach Dawson Odums said. “He’s very talented and we’re giving him a chance to showcase that talent. His improvement came with learning and playing. He stepped in and did a good job for us.”

Sims came to Southern from Pine Prairie High School, a Class 3A program in Evangeline Parish. He also was a sprinter on the track team but was lightly recruited. He found his way into a lineup full of experienced backs but none with his pure power ability and straight-ahead running style.

He made a small splash against Arkansas-Pine Bluff with his first collegiate TD, a three-yard run, and also picked up three yards on a third-and-one carry. On his game-breaking touchdown against Grambling, he showed strength, footwork and speed, breaking a tackle in the open field and running away from the defense.

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Sims’ big game against the Tigers raised his season totals to 28 carries for 248 yards, an 8.9 yards-per-carry average. His emergence has to make Odums feel better since the Jaguars struggled running the ball in the first meeting with Alcorn. Southern rushed for 75 yards on 27 carries, a 2.8 average

“He’s got power and speed," Odums said. “He gives us a change of pace. With (Devon) Benn, we know what we’ve got, a complete understanding of the offense. He runs hard, but we don’t have to keep pounding Benn. We’ve got other guys who can take the load off of him. J.J. has the ability to be explosive.”

Injuries

Southern is hoping a pair of players can return from injury and juice the offense. Wide receiver Jamar Washington, who is also an outside running threat on the option pitch, missed the Bayou Classic and might be back. Ditto for running back Chris Chaney.

“We should have (Washington) back; he’s feeling a little better,” Odums said. “Chris Chaney, hopefully he will be able to go more than he has. He’s about 90% which is further along than two weeks ago.”

Bus trips

The Southern Quarterback Club is sponsoring a bus trip for the SWAC Championship Game at Alcorn on Saturday for a cost of $120, including a tailgate. The bus leaves at 9 a.m. For more information, call 225-939-5906 or 225-931-1000.

The Blue and Gold Fan Club is also sponsoring a bus trip to the SWAC Championship Game. The cost is $110, which includes game ticket and a full meal prior to the game and refreshments after the game. Departure is at 7:30 a.m. and returning after the game. For more information, call 225-324-7234.