Alabama State still alive in SWAC East race

Southern’s football team has long since dropped out of the running for a spot in the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game.

Alabama State, which survived Saturday’s trip to A.W. Mumford Stadium, holding on for a 31-30 victory, is still very much in the race.

But the Hornets need help.

Alabama State (7-3, 7-2 SWAC) wrapped up conference play with Saturday’s win. The Hornets, who are idle this week before their annual Turkey Day Classic against Tuskegee, must hope for Jackson State to lose Saturday at Alcorn State.

If JSU loses, Alabama State will represent the Eastern Division in the title game at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., on Dec. 8. JSU holds the head-to-head tiebreaker against ASU, thanks to a 37-34 win on Oct. 13.

On the other side, Arkansas-Pine Bluff clinched the West title last week.

Big win for Alabama State

Alabama State claimed only its second win in this series since it defeated Southern 40-35 in the 2004 conference championship game.

The Hornets’ only other win during that time was in 2010, when they hung on for a 21-19 win after Southern failed to tie the score on a two-point conversion attempt with 16 seconds left.

Another injury

SU safety Kevin King sprained an ankle and momentarily left Saturday’s game against Alabama State, leaving the Jaguars even thinner in a secondary that was nearly out of fresh bodies.

The Jaguars had already lost senior Mychal Bell to a season-ending knee injury, and strong safety Levi Jackson, another senior, sat out Saturday’s game with a lingering arm infection.

King later returned to the game but had trouble starting and stopping on the ankle. He was replaced by senior D’Mekus Cook.

Senior Hawkins shines

Charles Hawkins, a former walk-on, got his big break at Southern as a punt-return specialist during his freshman year in 2009. But he didn’t score a special-teams touchdown until Saturday, when he opened the second half with a 99-yard kickoff return that brought the Jaguars to within seven, 28-21.

Hawkins became the second SU player to score on a kickoff return this season. Jaleel Richardson did so when he opened the Jackson State game with an 86-yard return Sept. 22.

Personnel moves

On offense, Southern began in a two-tight-end formation, with Rashaun Allen and Bradley Coleman flanking the offensive line. The team soon switched to a three-receiver set, subbing in Hawkins.

On defense, the Jaguars started two seniors — defensive tackle Benay Pryer and safety Marlon Smith — who don’t often play with the first team. The defense started in a nickel package, with D’Andre Woodland as the fifth defensive back, but later used three linebackers, subbing Woodland for senior linebacker Corry Roy.

Attendance

Attendance for Saturday’s game was announced at 14,220, the second-largest crowd of the season, trailing only SU’s homecoming game Oct. 13 against Texas Southern, which drew 25,400.

The smallest home crowd of the season was the home opener, a Thursday night 6-0 loss to Mississippi Valley State on Sept. 13. That game drew 13,289.

Game ball

To wideouts Mike Berry, Charles Hawkins and Lee Doss, who combined for 292 receiving yards.