Southern tried throwing the ball around a little Saturday night, but the Jaguars found out the best way to handle NAIA visitor Edward Waters College was to simply push the Tigers around.
One week after Southern ran for 168 yards at Memphis, the Jaguars piled up 407 yards on the ground, propelling them to a 61-0 win over the Tigers at A.W. Mumford Stadium.
The rushing total was the most since Southern ran for 245 yards in a 33-18 win over Langston last season and one of the highest in coach Dawson Odums’ tenure.
“We felt like we could run the football. Once the game got out of hand, the thought was, ‘Let’s feed all these backs,’ ” Odums said. “A lot of guys got some carries tonight and that was a big thing because we’ve got a lot of young guys that are going to be really good.”
Before the younger backs got their chance in the second half, Southern relied on its workhorse, junior running back Devon Benn. Doing all of his work in the first half, he carried 17 times for 120 yards and three touchdowns.
It was the second 100-yard game of Benn’s career and his first since eclipsing that mark in last season’s 38-28 win over Grambling in last year’s Bayou Classic.
“That was good to see,” Odums said of Benn’s effort. “I thought he ran with good vision. He ran behind his pads, and that’s the kind of back he is. If he continues to do that, we’ve got some other guys that can come in a change the speed, but he’s our workhorse. We were glad to see him have some success.”
Benn’s first score put Southern on top 7-0. After nearly blocking a punt on the Tigers’ opening possession, the Jaguars took over at the EWC 15. Three plays later, Benn scored from 3 yards out.
Benn finished the quarter with eight rushes for 55 yards. He added nine more for 65 yards in the second quarter, capping two drives with short touchdown runs as Southern led 40-0 at the half.
“We had a lot more execution and not as many mental errors,” Benn said. “We came out and played our game. We established the ground game today and it opened up everything else. Once we did that it allowed our offense to flow.”
One of the keys to establishing the ground game was the offensive line, which kept rolling even after Benn left the game for good. It was a showing rooted in focused work at practice all week according to center Jaylon Brinson.
“We had a great Tuesday and Wednesday of practice as an offensive line, moving people off the ball and finishing blocks,” Brinson said. “The 407 yards was a reflection of us having a great week of practice and great preparation, knowing what we’re doing and communicating.”
Southern was so effective at establishing the run that it kept its passing attack under a relative wrap all night. Of the 71 plays Southern ran, 50 were rushes. That ratio was even more pronounced in the second half, when 23 of 28 plays were runs.
It was a finish set up by first-half efforts like that of Benn.
“Devon is like a human joystick,” Brinson said. “Some of the moves he makes are unbelievable but its a reflection of the work we all put in because we do our job so he can do his. His job is to not get tackled by the first person and opening up lanes allows him to do his job.”