TROY, Ala. — En route to getting his career as a head coach underway, Southern’s Jason Rollins walked into a buzz saw Saturday night.
Having a deep and veteran squad with a third-year starting quarterback wasn’t much help as Troy jumped all over the Jaguars from the start of a 55-3 rout at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The Trojans dominated the game on both sides of the ball on the way to a 34-3 first half lead, then cruised through the second half to hand Southern its third season-opening loss in the past five years.
For Rollins, the 25-year veteran assistant getting his first chance in the driver’s seat, it was a baptism by fire, out of which he’ll try to squeeze some silver linings, then put Saturday night in the past.
“I’m very disappointed; we expect to win every time we get on the field,” he said. “I’m very disappointed we didn’t play up to our level of expectations.
“What we have to do is watch this film, make our corrections and get better going forward. Focus more on us as opposed to what we did and what we didn’t do as well.”
There was a lot more of the latter. The Jaguars were outgained 454-185, threw four interceptions, had two players ejected for targeting, committed nine penalties for 81 yards, totaled 11 first downs and were missing three starters who did not make the trip.
Rollins certainly credited Troy, which looked razor-sharp with its Air Raid offense, mixing the run and the pass. Transfer quarterback Taylor Powell completed 16 of 23 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns, while running for another.
Three Trojans running backs ran for four touchdowns and Troy had 162 yards on the ground. Southern’s defense stopped Troy only once in its first seven possessions on an interception by Southern defensive tackle Davin Cotton.
Jaguars quarterback Ladarius Skelton returned the favor three plays later with a pick-six to Zion Williams covering 19 yards.
Skelton struggled throughout the first half, hitting 6 of 10 throws for 77 yards, and was benched in the second quarter after his second interception. He started the second half but was pulled for good three plays in when he was injured after an 11-yard loss on a desperation lateral out of bounds.
John Lampley replaced Skelton and threw two interceptions before Bubba McDaniel finished up.
Rollins wouldn’t comment specifically on Skelton’s play or injury.
“We’re going to watch this film and see some of the things we can correct so we don’t make those mistakes again,” he said. “We’re waiting to see what the trainer says. Tomorrow we’ll know a lot more.”
Southern’s defense had some good moments, forcing two fourth-down tries on Troy’s first drive. But the Trojans converted both, including Powell’s 1-yard sneak for the game’s first score.
Southern appeared to have another stop when Chase Foster knocked the ball loose from Troy receiver Jabre Barber and Jordan Eastling recovered in the end zone just before halftime. But Foster was ejected for targeting, and Troy scored on the next play to make it 34-3.
Southern defensive end Lyston Barber was also ejected for targeting in the third quarter when he hit Powell on an incompletion.
On offense, Skelton sparked a 64-yard drive with a 21-yard run and a 20-yard completion to Jamar Washington in the second quarter. But the drive stalled, and Martell Fontenot kicked a 31-yard field goal for the Jaguars’ only points.
Devon Benn rushed for 50 yards on 11 carries and freshman wide receiver Tyler Kirkwood caught four passes for 39 yards.
“We’ll take this as a lesson, not an L,” offensive tackle Ja’Tyre Carter said. “From here on out, we’ll just grind. One day at a time, stack good days on good days. I give them (Troy) a 10 out of 10. They gave us a hard fight; we gave them a hard fight.”
Rollins concurred and talked around questions about his debut as a head coach.
“They’re a good football team,” Rollins said of Troy. “They came out and were able to get the ball down the field, moved with tempo, everything we expected.
“Our players are upbeat. All of our goals are still in place. Everything we want and are working for are still out in front of us.”