Southern coach Dawson Odums kept the media in the dark all week on who would start at quarterback in Southern’s spring season opener at Alabama State, but it was clear Ladarius Skelton is still the guy.
Despite a costly fumble, Skelton had a solid effort in the Jaguars' 24-21 victory against the Hornets.
His passing stats were pedestrian — 10 for 22 for 135 yards — but he came up big with an 8-yard scoring run, a 59-yard TD pass to tie the game and a 7-yard TD run that would have clinched it had Southern not been called for holding. The drive fizzled after the penalty which pushed the ball back to the Alabama State 17-yard line.
Skelton looked confident, sporting gold cleats, and had some off-target throws but also had a couple of drops. One of his completions ended in a fumble. He was elusive as usual, busting a 28-yard run by breaking three tackles and then evading five Hornet defenders in the backfield for a 13-yard scramble.
Alabama State also kept its starting quarterback under wraps but it was freshman Ryan Nettles, who completed 16 of 28 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns. Southern appeared to have him rattled early, but he came back to throw a couple of nice scoring passes. At the end of the game, he could not finish the potential game-winning drive.
The Southern defense had some struggles but made plays when it had to. The pass rush produced five sacks, four by Jordan Lewis and one by Jalen Ivy, and produced three turnovers. Lewis led the Jaguars with 11 total tackles, five of them for loss. Chase Foster scored his first career touchdown when he picked off a pass and return the ball 14 yards for the Jaguars' first score.
Replay that again
Southern appeared to get robbed on the replay of what could have been a fourth quarter 24-yard touchdown pass from Skelton to wide receiver Marquis McClain, who started his career near Montgomery at Auburn. Officials ruled it incomplete but replays showed McClain getting his left foot in bounds at the end of the play. Replay officials upheld the call. Cesare Barajas kicked a 41-yard field goal on the next play for the eventual winning points.
Both teams had 274 yards but Southern needed only 58 plays to hit that total while Alabama State ran 76 plays and had a large edge in time of possession with 36:16 to 22:52.
Southern is 29-9 all time against ASU, 10-3 in Montgomery. Odums is 5-1 against the Hornets, the loss coming in Odums' first game as interim coach in 2012. He is 3-0 in new ASU Stadium. Odums improved to 2-6 in season openers.
Southern plays host to Arkansas-Pine Bluff at A.W. Mumford Stadium at 6 p.m. next Saturday. Alabama State is off for the next two week before playing host to Jackson State on March 20. The Hornets were scheduled to play Alcorn State next week, but the Braves opted out of the spring season. March 13 is a mandated open date in the even of postponements. Three other SWAC games have been rescheduled for that weekend.
Southern game captains were RB Devon Benn, DB Jakoby Pappillion, OG Jonathan Bishop and DE Jalen Ivy, all seniors.