Southern dominates in victory of Texas Southern
BY MIKE McCALL
October 25, 2012
As has been the case often lately, the Southern defense held strong, limiting Texas Southern to just one score and forcing three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble).
With just a few minutes until halftime Saturday night, cars were still bumper to bumper coming over “The Hump” on Harding Boulevard.
Fans showed up in force for Southern’s homecoming matchup with Texas Southern, and the Jaguars turned A.W. Mumford Stadium into a place that finally must have felt like home for the fans and alumni who were used to the winning ways of old.
In front of 25,400, Southern cruised to a 34-7 victory over the Tigers, holding a lead the whole way in a game that was never in doubt. Texas Southern scored its only points in the fourth quarter, but by then, the outcome was locked up.
It was just what SU (3-3, 2-2 Southwestern Athletic Conference) needed ahead of next weekend’s showdown with Western Division-leading Arkansas-Pine Bluff (4-2, 3-1). The Jaguars notched their largest margin of victory in a conference game since a 45-14 win against TSU in 2008. That, in fact, had been Southern’s most recent victory over the Tigers, who had won three straight games in this series.
Unlike the last time the Jaguars stepped onto this field — a bumbling 6-0 loss to Mississippi Valley State on Sept. 13 — they came out sharp.
It was a throwback to the good ol’ days, with stars like boxer Floyd Mayweather and Grammy Award-winning singer Erykah Badu on hand to see what the home crowd used to watch SU do with regularity: beat a bad team soundly.
“This was my third homecoming, and this was the best one,” said linebacker Anthony Balancier, who finished with three sacks and a forced fumble. “I don’t know how the 1990s were, but it felt like the winning atmosphere was back. I like it. I hope they come back next week when we have that big, big game.”
The Jaguars brought that atmosphere back by rectifying several struggles that have plagued them this season.
After painfully slow starts against Florida A&M and Alcorn State in recent weeks, Southern came out firing, taking the first drive 77 yards for a short field goal.
The next drive, which started at the TSU 39-yard line thanks to a shanked punt, had the finishing touch. And it came from a part of the offense that had been nonexistent before Saturday.
Coming into the weekend, Southern was last in the conference in rushing — but against the league’s worst run defense, it woke up, cracking the 100-yard mark for just the second time all year with 106 yards on 29 carries (3.7 yards per attempt).
Facing third-and-1 from the 30 in the first quarter, and without injured starting running back Sylvester Nzekwe, the Jaguars reached down the depth chart and plucked Terence Clayton, who had all of six carries on the season.
He was stuffed on third down, then looked like he would hit more trouble on a fourth-and-1 carry. But he blasted through an arm tackle and broke into the open field. Clayton — who doubles as an SU sprinter — wouldn’t be caught from there, and he dashed in for the team’s first rushing score since the season opener at New Mexico.
Southern atoned for its past mistakes in a third way as well. A fake punt was a crucial blow in last week’s loss to Alcorn State, but the Jaguars were on the better end of that Saturday.
On fourth-and-10, punter and former high school quarterback Chase Tuten took the snap and coolly hit receiver Burnett King, who ran for 28 yards into TSU territory. Although the drive stalled at the 5, Matt Hill knocked another field goal through to make it 13-0.
And Southern was far from done. Cornerback D’Andre Woodland set the offense up for a quick 39-yard touchdown drive with an interception just before halftime, and Southern added second-half touchdowns on passes of 67 and 46 yards to Mike Berry and William Waddel.
If there were negatives to be found, they were in settling for field goals on drives that crossed the 10-yard line and committing two penalties that kept Tigers drives alive in the first half.
But as has been the case often lately, the SU defense held strong, limiting TSU to just one score and forcing three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble).
And this wasn’t the time to rain on the Jaguars’ homecoming points parade, anyway.
It was the most they’ve scored since a 49-45 loss to Jackson State in 2010, a sound shellacking that will do much to rejuvenate a fan base hungry to believe that the good times are coming back.
And as the line of cars heading away from campus throughout the second half showed, it was a nice, stress-free way to spend homecoming on The Bluff.
“It’s homecoming; they were making a lot of noise, and they were behind their Jags,” interim coach Dawson Odums said. “We’re happy to perform the way they did. We’re happy that everybody’s going to finish this night celebrating with a win.”