MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The old Ladarius Skelton Jaguar Nation knows so well was back in full form Saturday, at least for a half.
Then, suddenly, he wasn’t.
After a strong first half, when Skelton guided three scoring drives and rushed for 74 yards, he was sacked by cramps that kept him on the bench after halftime when Memphis took control. By the time he got back into the game, the Jaguars were down 24 points.
When asked how he felt after the game, Skelton managed a smile and said, “Not good,” but added, “I’m all right though.”
That’s good news for Southern moving forward. The Jaguars are not the same team with him on the bench. Backup Bubba McDaniel was unable to move the offense, and the game began slipping away.
Skelton said he started feeling the cramps at halftime, first in his hand and then his body when the team returned to the sideline for the second half.
“My body was telling me not to go out there,” he said. “My hand was cramping. We went to the sideline to get more fluids in me. My body and legs started cramping, so I went back to the locker room.”
Skelton returned to the game and played the final two series, which amounted to only five plays. McDaniel returned for the final snap and completed 1 of 4 passes for four yards during his stint.
“I felt good when I came back out; I had a couple of IVs,” said the fourth-year junior from nearby Pine Bluff, Arkansas. “I had some IVs after the game and I’m feeling better.”
Southern coach Dawson Odums was also feeling better seeing him rebound from last week’s two-fumble effort at McNeese State in which Skelton was benched early in the third quarter. He couldn’t overcome the triple-digit temperature for a game with an 11 a.m. kickoff on the artificial turf at Liberty Bowl Stadium.
“We knew he would bounce back,” Odums said. “He knew we needed him to play at a higher level. Ladarius has been a good leader for us, and he did what he had to do.”
Skelton showed the form that helped him win his first five starts as a Jaguar last year. He ran the triple option well, showing speed and power on a 29-yard run to set up Southern's first touchdown. Skelton also scrambled effectively, going 16 yards on a second-and-13 to keep another touchdown drive alive. He also bought time with his feet and found Hunter Register open for a 36-yard completion.
The final tally on Skelton stats was 7 of 15 passing for 86 yards and one touchdown. He rushed for 75 yards on 15 carries, including one sack for minus-8 yards.
“We did what we were supposed to: We got better, that was our goal,” Skelton said. “We gave our all against a school that’s on another level. We know we are a real good team and organization. We’ve got to stand on that.”