JACKSON, Miss. — Southern ran into its seemingly ever-present quarterback issues Saturday at Jackson State, but even that wasn’t enough to prevent the Jaguars' total domination.
Locked in from the start and playing well in all three phases of the game, the Jaguars humbled the Tigers and their high-profile coach Deion Sanders 34-14 at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The offense set the tone by taking the opening kickoff and driving 70 yards for a touchdown, the special teams blocked a punt to set up the clinching TD and the defense shackled the Southwestern Athletic Conference's No. 1 offense throughout the day to give Southern its eighth consecutive victory in the series.
Even though the game didn’t count in the league standings, the Jaguars played as if it was worth two.
“I thought our guys played really well today,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said. “We get better, that’s the history of our program. It’s no different whether it’s the spring or fall. Our guys are finally getting to where they need to be at the right time of year. We played complete: good offense, defense and special teams, and we still left some points out there. The objective is to win and they checked that box.”
The Jaguars (3-1) dominated time of possession 42:49 to 17:11 and had an 84-54 edge in plays run. The Southern offensive line cleared the way for runners to gain 294 yards on 59 carries, almost 5 yards per carry, which led to an incredible third-down conversion rate (14 of 20 for 70%).
Even though quarterback Ladarius Skelton threw two first-half interception and was replaced by John Lampley, he rushed for 77 yards on 15 carries, including a 2-yard TD run with 11:35 left, the final nail in the coffin.
Jarodd Sims rushed for 79 yards on 17 carries and Devon Benn had his best game of the season with 75 yards and two TDs on 18 carries.
Defensively, the Jaguars sacked Jackson State quarterback Jalon Jones four times, two by Jordan Lewis. Linebacker Caleb Carter had seven tackles and cornerback Tamaurice Smith snuffed out the final Jackson State drive with a fourth-quarter interception.
“We got our butts kicked in every phase of the game, glaring things,” Jackson State coach Deion Sanders said. “We came out flat from the onset and I don’t think we ever recovered. We played with no passion. I don’t feel this is who we are. They are well-coached, they played their butts off and played with passion.”
Every time Jackson State (3-2) tried to build momentum, the Jaguars answered. Lampley, who completed 9 of 14 for 116 yards, drove his team 54 yards for a crucial 20-yard TD pass to Corey Williams with eight seconds left in the first half after a fourth-down stop by the defense.
Southern padded its lead on a 49-yard field goal by Cesare Barajas in the third quarter and a 20-yard scoring run by Benn to make it 27-7.
Jones, who entered the game with a league-leading 773 yards and nine touchdown passes, threw a 75-yard scoring pass to Daylen Baldwin in the second quarter. He kept the home team in the game with an 18-yarder to Corey Reed on the first play of the fourth quarter, but Kordell Caldwell blocked a Tigers punt to set up Skelton’s clinching TD.
Odums praised his team’s resiliency through the pandemic and game cancellations which have robbed teams of continuity. Southern was playing its third consecutive game after an open date. With that and playing one of its most intense rivals, he was pleased with the response.
“These guys have been in big games,” Odums said. “With all the adversity stacked up on us, we’ve guaranteed ourselves a winning season. That’s a testament to our coaches, our program, the players and their parents. I’m proud of these guys. They keep trying to do the right things.
“You can say a lot of things about me, or Southern University. But what you can’t say about today is we ain’t first class.”
The Jaguars led 17-7 in the first half despite Skelton’s two interceptions, and grabbed the momentum back from Jackson State with a fourth-down stop and a 54-yard drive that took 37 seconds of the game clock.
Trailing 10-7, the Tigers looked ready to take the lead with a drive that reached the Southern 34, but a sack by Jalen Ivy and another by Lewis for 8 yards on fourth down gave Southern the chance it needed. Lampley hit Ethan Howard for a 34-yard gain to the JSU 20. Three plays later, Lampley found Williams at the 5-yard line and Williams sidestepped a defender to score his first career TD.
Southern started the game with a picture-perfect drive of 70 yards in 11 plays capped by Benn’s 2-yard run on third down with 10:01 left. Skelton completed all four of his passes for 37 yards and added a 14-yard option keeper.
The Jaguars fooled the Tigers by recovering an onside kick, but the drive ended when Skelton threw his first interception to De’Jahn Warren.
The Jaguars had another promising drive cut short when Skelton fumbled on second-and-goal from the 5 and Sims recovered for Southern for an 8-yard loss. The Jaguars had to settle for Barajas’ 30-yard field goal and a 10-0 lead with 12:43 left in the second quarter.