MEMPHIS, Tenn. – One of Southern’s issues on defense Saturday was the lack of a pass rush, and that was partly because of the quality of the opposition.
But the Jaguars came up with one play that shows their potential and one future opponents are going to have to prepare for.
Defensive end Jordan Lewis single-handedly accounted for Southern's second-half scoring with a sack, strip, scoop and score on Memphis quarterback Brady White in the third quarter of the 55-24 loss. It cut the margin to 34-24 at the time, but Memphis came right back and iced the game with touchdowns on their next three possessions.
Lewis blew in untouched from White’s blind side and was on him before the quarterback could react. Lewis also showed keen reflexes by finding the loose ball before anyone else, snatching it off the ground and taking off on the 74-yard scoring play.
“He does that all the time in practice; he’s special,” Southern wide receiver Hunter Register said. Lewis was not permitted to meet with the media after the game.
Lewis finished with five tackles, three for losses, and now has two sacks for the season. A sophomore from Ocala, Florida, Lewis was the SWAC Freshman of the Year and All-Conference with 12 sacks in 2018.
“He’s a football player and a very good one,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said. “Going forward, everybody is going to have to account for him. He’s not going to play against the caliber of tackles we saw today. He’s tough, he’s a handful.”
The challenge has been to get weight on Lewis and keep it there. He played at 195 pounds last year and got up to 210 this season, but he burns some of it off between practices and games each week.
“Amazing,” said defensive tackle Dakavion Champion. “He’s very athletic. He can play any position on the field.
Despite trailing 27-17 at halftime, Southern held a wide margin in time of possession, 22:25 to 7:35, thanks to drives of 17 and eight plays, respectively, that resulted in a touchdown and a field goal. The Jaguars rushed for 157 yards and had a 13-7 edge in first downs. Subtracting an eight-yard sack, Ladarius Skelton rushed for 82 yards on 12 carries, an average of 6.8 yards per carry.
More punt troubles
Southern tried a new punter, senior Taylor Merritt, and it didn’t go well. Merritt had trouble getting all three of his kicks off quickly enough and he bobbled the snap on a third, leading to a block by Tim Hart which was returned for a touchdown by Keith Brown. Southern switched back to Cesar Barajas, who hit a line drive, rugby-style punt 49 yards to start third quarter. But even Barajas had difficulty with the Memphis rush, which partially blocked one of his kicks, leading to a third-quarter touchdown.
Odums said he was trying to get through the game without using Barajas, who was injured on the opening kickoff of last week’s game against McNeese State. Martell Fontenot handled kickoffs for Southern on Saturday.
"Cesar didn’t do much this week,” Odums said. “He said ‘Coach, I can go.’ He’s been doing it a while, but we were trying to prevent him from having to play today.”
More new faces
Southern used Brandon Hinton as its new punt returner after the Jaguars muffed three punts the week before. Hinton made a poor decision on his only try, allowing a ball to roll 15 yards to the Jaguar 8 for a 54-yard net punt. The Jaguars were without both starting cornerbacks. O.J Tucker started in place of Robert Rhem, who suffered shoulder and foot injuries against McNeese. Jordan Eastling started for the second consecutive week in place of Glenn Brown, who has been out with off-the-field issues. Ceajae Bryant started at defensive tackle in place of Davin Cotton.
Memphis receiver and Baton Rouge native Damonte Coxie had a nice day with six catches for 112 yards. He didn’t score a touchdown but averaged 18.7 yards per catch, including a 52-yard grab on his first reception to set up a first quarter field goal. Coxie has now caught a pass in 21 consecutive games and moved into the school’s top 10 in career yardage with 1,653.
Southern played its 1,000th game Saturday and is now 605-365-30 all-time. ... Southern is now 0-15 in games against FBS schools. Odums is 0-11 in eight seasons in those games. ... The 11 a.m. kickoff is Southern’s third since 2015. ... Saturday was the first meeting between Memphis and Southern.
Southern game captains were tight end Jeremias Houston, right tackle Jodeci Harris, defensive tackle Dakavion Champion and linebacker Calvin Lunkins.