“I’ve had a lot of good memories at my past schools, and a lot of bad ones.” CLAYTON MOORE, JSU quarterback
Clayton Moore’s future could be brighter than the lights that shine down on Veterans Memorial Stadium on Saturday nights.
The new Jackson State quarterback torched Texas Southern in his lone start of the season last week, passing for three touchdowns and running for three more scores as JSU beat TSU 45-35.
“I just came to Jackson State, so during camp was my first time to get around all the players,” said Moore, who transferred to JSU from the University of Akron during the offseason. “I just try to prepare every day like it’s my last game, like I’m the starter.”
But Moore, who at one point slipped to No. 3 on the Tigers’ depth chart, spent the first two games backing up JSU senior Dedric McDonald.
“I came off the bench my first two games and did OK. But once they gave me the start against Texas Southern, I knew it was my opportunity, and I made the best of it,” Moore said.
Moore completed 18 of 36 passes for 363 yards and rushed for 101 yards against TSU on his way to being named Southwestern Athletic Conference Newcomer of the Week on Monday.
And his emergence is anything but good news for a Southern team fresh off an embarrassing 6-0 loss to Mississippi Valley State, followed by the reassignment of coach Stump Mitchell.
To date, SU has struggled defending the run, allowing an average of 245.0 yards through two games.
Now, Moore will test the Jaguars through the air.
“He makes great decisions and really seems like he has a good grasp of the offense, great control of the offense,” SU interim coach Dawson Odums said. “If he’s in a bad play, it seems like he’ll get them out of that situation and into a good play. He’s just a real heady guy, and everything about him you would like to have in your quarterback.
He has a lot of poise, extending the pocket and making throws under pressure, just overall seems to be a great football player for Jackson.”
And Moore is hoping for an encore performance when JSU (1-2, 1-0 SWAC) hosts Southern (0-2, 0-1) Saturday at 4 p.m. inside Veterans Memorial Stadium.
So is JSU coach Rick Comegy, whose decision to start Moore over McDonald seems to have revived the Tigers offense.
“He lifted the team and gave us a spark that we needed to fight hard and set the charge,” Comegy said of Moore. “Once we noticed that happening, it worked out well for us ... and we want to see if he can continue.”
Moore has had quite the journey to JSU. Originally an Ole Miss commitment out of high school, Moore spent a year with the Rebels before transferring to Gulf Coast Community College.
From there, he spent a year at Akron, where he started 12 games last season, leading the Zips to only one win, a 36-13 defeat of Virginia Military Institute.
The path he’s traveled, he says, has prepared him for where he is today.
“I think it (the journey to Jackson State) prepared me a lot,” Moore explained. “They say whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
“I’ve had a lot of good memories at my past schools, and a lot of bad ones. I was redshirted at Ole Miss. I was the starter at Gulf Coast (Community College). I was the starter last year at Akron. I think that prepared me a lot, starting on the Division I level and starting on the JUCO level, to come to Jackson State and not be shocked when my name was called.”
JSU currently leads the SWAC in total offense, averaging 396.3 yards per game. The Tigers also have the league’s best pass offense, averaging 285 yards per game.
In 11/2 games of action, Moore has completed 41 of 74 attempts for 564 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. His 188 yard per game average is the best in the SWAC.
He is also the Tigers’ leading rusher with 182 yards and four touchdowns on 32 carries.
“The coaches ... I love (the offense) just because of the freedom I get,” Moore said. “Coach (Derrick) McCall, our offensive coordinator, always tells me if we have a run play called and they give us a certain look to get out of it. If we’ve got a pass play called and the defense favors run, run it. He’ll call a play, and then it’s up to me to put us in the best position after that. So the freedom the coaches have given me within the offense has helped me get to this point.”