Southern’s search for productive offense had positive notes Saturday night, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a lethargic overall outing during the Jaguars’ 19-14 loss to Jackson State at A.W. Mumford Stadium.
Southern finished with 348 yards of offense as it nearly matched JSU’s total of 355. But Southern couldn’t capitalize on its opportunities in JSU territory and came up short with the game on the line late in the fourth quarter.
“I hurt for the guys,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said. “This is probably the most focus as a football team we had going into a game.”
Quarterback Dray Joseph threw his only interception early in the fourth quarter. But Southern’s defense held, and Joseph came back to direct Southern on a promising 10-play march to the JSU 7 as the clock ran down. His 32-yard completion to Mike Jones highlighted the series with a first down at the JSU 14.
But on fourth down from the JSU 7 with the play clock running down, Joseph short-armed a hurried pass to an open Bradley Coleman in the end zone.
“We kind of ran out of time with the play clock,” Joseph said. “We still had some motion, so the whole play was discombobulated. But I threw it too short, nothing else I can say.”
Jackson State took possession with just over a minute to play and easily ran out the clock to close out its win.
“Turnovers kill you,” Odums said. “You can’t put your backs to the wall like that. We lost the penalty battle tonight, too. Those are two categories we know we have to win if we want to win football games.”
Southern’s third quarter featured Joseph’s fumble as he was sacked, and a punt before a quick drive at the end of the period showed how dangerous the Jaguars can be.
Starting at the SU 30, the Jaguars used six plays and 1:47 to drive for their second touchdown. Joseph’s 43-yard completion to Willie Quinn gave Southern a first inside the JSU 20. Two plays later, Joseph found Lee Doss on a crossing route for a 19-yard score.
Southern came into the game averaging only 78 yards rushing per game, good enough for last in the SWAC. But the Jaguars ran past that number in the first half alone on their way to 102 for the game.
Most promising for Southern was the play of redshirt freshman Lenard Tillery, who ran for 72 yards and a touchdown. Tillery’s 60-yard scoring run late in the first half gave the Jaguars a 7-3 lead at the break. The play also showcased Tillery’s speed as he hit the left sideline and outran a trio of defenders to the end zone.
Southern is still looking for its first 100-yard rusher since last season when Sylvester Nzekwe had at least 100 yards in three of the Jaguars’ final four games.
But Tillery’s score was the highlight of the first half when Southern’s offensive frustrations began. The Jaguars moved into Jackson State territory on two of three possessions besides Tillery‘s breakaway score.
Midway through the first quarter Southern moved from its own 34 to the JSU 25. Joseph completed three passes for 44 yards to spark the drive, but kicker Gregory Pittman’s 42-yard field goal try was wide right on fourth down.
Early in the second, Southern took possession at its 7 and followed Joseph’s lead again as he completed five passes for 63 yards. Southern moved to a first-and-10 at the JSU 18 before the bottom fell out. In their next six plays Southern was flagged three times for illegal procedure and once for holding. Eventually facing a fourth-and-27, Southern punted the ball away.