LORMAN, Miss. — The beat goes on for Southern University when it runs into Alcorn State, and when it tries to cobble together effective quarterback play.
The Jaguars lost for the ninth time in the past 10 tries against the reigning Southwestern Athletic Conference champion Braves 27-13 at Spinks-Casem Stadium on Saturday.
The Southern offense started well but went flat in the second half as Alcorn asserted its dominance with back-to-back touchdown drives to erase a 6-3 Southern halftime lead and take control. The lead grew to 27-6 before a late scoring drive gave it a better look on the scoreboard.
Southern (4-4, 3-1 SWAC) saw its three-game win streak stopped but is still in position for a December rematch with the Braves (6-2, 4-0), who are closing in on an East Division title. Southern has league games against Alabama A&M, Jackson State and Grambling to take care of if it wants another shot.
The Jaguars were hopeful Saturday might be the day, but know the season is far from finished.
“It hurts,” defensive back Jakoby Pappillion said. “I’ve been here three years and I haven’t got a (win). I’m 0 and 4 against them. I know the team hurts as well. All the work we put in to lose, it stings.
“We’ve got to come back Sunday regroup and win Monday. Then Tuesday, onto the next one. We can’t hang our head on this one.”
Southern started Ladarius Skelton at quarterback and drove 13 plays to the Alcorn 15 with the opening kickoff. But a halfback pass by Devon Benn resulted in an interception. Skelton played one more series before backup Bubba McDaniel entered and engineered 20-play, 84-yard drive he capped with a 2-yard scoring run. But that was all until Skelton re-entered and threw a 12-yard TD pass to Hunter Register with 2:18 left.
Southern coach Dawson Odums said before the game both would play. But the Jaguars offense could muster only 36 yards in the third quarter while the home team was taking control. McDaniel threw an interception to set up the Braves second touchdown drive. Southern was outgained 377-284 and rushed for only 75 yards on 27 carries.
“That’s our first time doing it,” Odums said. “We’ve got two really good quarterbacks. We’ll evaluate it how this went and go back to the drawing board. We didn’t know how much both would play. We’ll look at what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. We have some things we can do we weren’t able to.”
What Southern wasn’t able to do is stop Alcorn junior quarterback Felix Harper. He completed 19 of 26 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns without an interception.
Southern also had difficulty defending the Braves' bigger receivers Chris Blair and Raidarious Anderson. The 6-foot-2 Blair caught three for 108 yards and the 6-5 Anderson one for 52, but they forced three pass interference penalties from Southern in the first quarter. Southern sacked Harper once but couldn’t rattle him enough.
“He can throw the ball; that’s evident,” Odums said. “You want to make him throw it but coverage-wise our guys have got to challenge themselves. We’ve got to stop the deep ball. If not, teams are going to continue to do it.
“We brought pressure, we blitzed. They continued to slide and make plays, taking a deep drop too. We’ll look at the film, clean up our mistakes and get better.”
Southern’s defense did well to slow down the Alcorn rushing attack, which had 100 yards. The Jaguars also came up with a big play after a 69-yard completion to Blair helped put the Braves in position for the first touchdown. Benjamin Harris forced a fumble on third and goal from the Southern 1-yard line and linebacker Caleb Carter came up with the ball.
Skelton was 6 of 10 in the first two series, but missed badly on two screen passes and was subbed out for McDaniel, who marched Southern to four third-down conversions on the way to the first Jaguars score. He finished 12 of 18 for 95 yards while Skelton was 13 of 20 for 114 yards.
Alcorn took the second-half kickoff and needed only five plays to take the lead for good. A 52-yard pass from Harper to Anderson plus an unsportsmanlike conduct infraction by Southern led to a 1-yard TD run by Harper.
On the ensuing possession, Mikail Webb batted and intercepted a McDaniel pass to set up the home team at the Southern 43. Harper capped a nine-pay drive with a 4-yard TD pass to De’Vaughn Waller, who rushed for 81 yards on 22 carries.
Alcorn ground out another scoring drive that ended in a 31-yard field goal by Corey McCullough and Harper threw his second TD pass to LeCharles Pringle with 4:22 left to put the game out of reach.
“At the end of the day they’re a good football team,” Odums said. “It’s a tough place (to play). Sometimes life gives you some things you’ve got to figure out. They’re challenging. You don’t always have the answer but you keep chipping away at it until you do.”