Southern is discovering the benefits that come with scoring early.
In the past three games since losing at home to Alcorn State on Sept. 29, Southern has outscored opponents 59-0 in the first half.
The Jaguars had a 21-point lead over Jackson State at the break Saturday night at A.W. Mumford Stadium. They cruised to a 41-7 win.
Creating fast starts was a point of emphasis for the Jaguars in the second half of the season after they failed to do so during the first two months. Southern was outscored 105-48 in the first two quarters of its first five games.
“It starts in practice,” wide receiver Kendall Catalon said. “We always start fast and we want to score first. That was our mindset. We knew Jackson’s weaknesses and we put everything on the first drive and the first quarter.”
Saturday night did see the end of Southern’s two-game streak of scoring on the opening possession, having to punt after a quick three-and-out. But they didn’t wait long to take a lead, scoring a touchdown on each of the next two drives.
“As a defense, our motto is start fast and finish strong,” cornerback Demerio Houston said. “As long as we can start fast, we’ll have a good chance to finish strong.”
Southern made sure to welcome Jarrad Hayes back home for the first time since he transferred out in 2016.
Hayes, now the starting quarterback at Jackson State, was sacked three times Saturday night in his first career start in Mumford Stadium despite playing two seasons for the Jaguars.
The Tigers were shut out of the first half, crossing midfield only once on seven drives, setting the stage for the blowout loss. Hayes, a Central High grad, was later pulled from the game with the score well in hand for Southern.
He completed 14 of 24 passes for 98 yards.
Hayes was named JSU’s starter a month ago against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. He is now 2-2 as a starter.
“It was nothing personal. It was just business,” linebacker Calvin Lunkins said. “I talked to him after the game and told him good game. It was a good game, and I respect him a lot. We had to be on our 'A' game.”
All of Southern’s starters and major contributors were healthy and accounted for Saturday — especially quarterback Ladarius Skelton.
Skelton’s status was in jeopardy this week after he suffered an ankle injury in the second quarter of last week's 21-7 win against Texas Southern.
But Skelton, like the rest of his teammates, was available all day against JSU. He threw for 61 yards and a touchdown and ran for another 89 yards and a score.
The only noticeable absences were offensive linemen Christopher Nash and August Walker and wide receiver Jamel Byrd, who did not dress out.
Give them the boot
Cesar Barajas continued to be a weapon for Southern on special teams as he downed his first two punts of the night inside the Jackson State 5-yard line.
Barajas averaged 47.2 yards on six punts Saturday night, building on his 40.5-yard average coming into the game.