LORMAN, Miss. — Saturday afternoon in the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game, Southern needed to establish the run — something that was nowhere to be found in the Jaguars' regular-season loss to Alcorn State on Sept. 29.
It didn’t take Southern long to show it was ready to do just that.
SU quarterback Ladarius Skelton ran around right end for 14 yards on the first play of the game. It immediately surpassed any rush Southern had in the first game, when the Jaguars rushed for 63 yards with a long of 10.
This time, Southern had 86 yards rushing in the first quarter alone, and went on to become the first SWAC team to rush for more than 100 yards against the Braves this season, even if the Jaguars lost 37-28.
They blocked that kick
Southern got a break on an extra-point attempt in the third quarter following Noah Johnson’s lunge over the goal line, Drew Brees-style, for a 1-yard touchdown. Kicker Corey McCullough appeared to have made the extra point, but the play was nullified because the play clock had not been set.
Joe Davis then blocked the second attempt leaving Southern’s deficit at 27-14.
Houston leaves but returns
Demerio Houston was shaken up with six minutes left in the first quarter when he tried to chase down Alcorn running back De’Shawn Waller on his 83-yard touchdown run. Houston went to the locker room but was back on the field for the start of the second half. He finished out the game in his usual role.
Trey Smith caught just one pass for 8 yards in the first meeting with Alcorn. He turned in his best game of the season in the championship, catching seven passes for 120 yards — including a 22-yard TD reception from Skelton in the second quarter.
0 for 2 against Alcorn
Southern dropped to 0-2 against Alcorn State in the SWAC title game. In 2014, the Braves won the first meeting 38-24 in when MVP John Gibbs threw for 245 yards and three touchdowns. Alcorn got another MVP performance this time with quarterback Noah Johnson.
Southern under, Alcorn over
Anyone wanting to predict Southern’s win over Alcorn might have looked at the teams' recent scoring trends. Since its 20-3 loss on Sept. 29, Southern had scored an average of 38.8 points per game.
Alcorn was averaging 28.8 points in conference games over the same time frame, but the numbers were reversed as Alcorn won 37-28 to punch its ticket to the Celebration Bowl.
Perhaps looking to confuse the Alcorn defense, Southern lined up in a wishbone formation with 11:42 left in the first half. The setup caused more trouble for the Jaguars than it did their opponent. Skelton lost 4 yards on first down, and was sacked for a 9-yard loss on second down. The Jaguars went away from the wishbone for good.
New home for the title game
Saturday marked the third time the SWAC football championship was played at a new location. Southern was featured in all of those games, and dropped to 2-1 after Saturday’s loss at Alcorn State. In 1999, Southern won the inaugural game 31-30 over Jackson State at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama.
In 2013, the game shifted to NRG Stadium in Houston where Southern defeated Jackson State 34-27.