The Human Jukebox blared in the background as the few remaining handfuls of Southern faithful sat on bated breath watching the battle unfold across the field at A.W. Mumford Stadium.
The scoreboard read Jaguars 33, Langston 18 — ultimately the game’s final score — with a little over a minute to play in the third quarter, but the fate of the game rested on one last call.
The only problem? Not a single player from either team was in sight.
Just a few minutes earlier, teams were sent back to the locker room for the game’s second lightning delay of the night, and the schools’ athletic directors had to decide whether they would come back out to play the final 16 minutes.
According to NCAA guidelines, as the home team, Southern had the final say, but SU athletic director Roman Banks allowed Langston to be included in the conversation. The game did not need to be finished as it was not a conference matchup.
The decision was that teams would not return and Southern would be declared the winner of the inaugural Pete Richardson Classic for the home opener.
"It seemed that the lightning was a recurring thing," Southern athletic director Roman Banks said. "As the A.D., I wanted to make sure Langston had a chance to express what they thought. We were very patient with them calling it. They needed to do research on what they needed to do.”
Coach Dawson Odums said he was not consulted in the decision to end the game early and had little to say about the way it concluded.
His focus was centered squarely a disappointing first half that had FCS-level Southern struggling to gain momentum against NAIA Langston in the final non-conference game of the season for the Jaguars.
Odums described it as a “sluggish” start, possibly due, in part, to Southern not being used to playing at night with team practices during the week taking place in the early mornings.
Whatever the cause, Southern trailed the Lions 12-7 with five minutes to play in the first half.
The Jaguars was forced to punt on five of their first six possessions, with all five lasting fewer than five plays.
“We’re trying to put our hands on why it was so sluggish,” Odums said. “It was just the juice. We just didn't have a lot of energy. We’ve got to figure out why. I thought we did some good stuff. They did some good stuff.
“But at the end of the day, on third down, you’ve got to stop people on defense and stay on the field on offense.”
It took a spark from a pair of team captains and a motivating speech from Odums to get Southern back on track just before halftime.
With Langston slicing through the defense for 231 yards in the first half, Odums pulled his team into a huddle on the bench and told them to settle down and play with some focus.
The message resonated with safety Montavius Gaines, who called the speech the turning point of the game.
He immediately went out on the field and broke up a crucial fourth-down conversion attempt to give Southern the ball.
Sophomore wide receiver Kendall Catalon took over from there.
The undersized captain caught a short pass from backup quarterback Bubba McDaniel that he turned into the play of the game when he left a trail of defenders in his wake as he broke free for a 41-yard score.
It was the first of three touchdowns for Catalon, including a 4-yard run out of the wildcat formation just seconds before the teams were sent to the locker room for the second and final time of the night.
“It starts off in practice,” Catalon said. “I play like I’m in a game in practice. It showed out tonight. I was determined to get in the end zone every time I touched the ball.”