HOUSTON — Near the end of the first quarter against the University of Houston, the Southern sideline erupted after a leaping 45-yard catch by Samuel Altman. The Jaguars were in the red zone and threatening to draw within three points.
Two plays later, freshman running back Kylum Favorite fumbled that momentum away.
Midway through the second quarter, a big stop on defense forced the Cougars to punt the ball back to a seemingly re-energized Jaguars team.
Southern fumbled away that opportunity as well. The ball hit Marquon Webster in the back, and the Cougars recovered at the SU 12.
Add in a third fumble, an interception and 10 penalties for 91 yards and the Jaguars made things a lot more difficult on themselves in a 62-13 loss to the Cougars on Friday night at Reliant Stadium.
“It was just our first game,” said junior linebacker Daniel Brown, who led SU with 12 tackles and half a sack. “We just need to straighten everything up at practice and come back to work next week.”
Things didn’t look good from the start. Jaleel Richardson mishandled the opening kickoff, Brown made an illegal block and the Jaguars were forced to start the game at their own 7.
A substitution penalty on fourth down forced Southern to punt from its own 6-yard line.
On their second possession, the Jaguars once again went backward with a 12-men-on-the-field penalty that forced a punt three plays later.
On defense, Southern’s discipline wasn’t much better. Another substitution penalty — with UH facing a fourth down — gave the Cougars a first down and led to a field goal.
Favorite’s fumble came on the Jaguars’ third possession. A false-start penalty on their fifth possession led to another punt.
Then came the fumbled punt return, followed by a third fumble on the next possession by Altman, which was recovered by Trevon Stewart.
“We don’t tackle much in practice because we try to keep our guys healthy,” SU quarterback Dray Joseph said. “You kind of have to remind yourself to protect the football at all costs.”
The kicking game also had its challenges, as SU sophomore Gregory Pittman had his first extra-point attempt blocked after a high snap by Ohene Akuoko.
In the second half, Joseph threw his first interception, a pass that was tipped by UH’s Derrick Mathews and intercepted by defensive tackle Tommy Mark. An unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty by Lee Doss was also added to the end of the play.
“We just need to keep our heads up,” Joseph said. “You can’t do anything about the game anymore. You just have to go out and get better.”
The Jaguars special teams added another penalty in the fourth quarter after Kevin King interfered with a fair catch. On Southern’s next punt, Brown was penalized 15 yards for targeting a defenseless receiver.
The Jaguars closed out the night with a roughing-the-passer call on Traé Tiller.
“It’s the first week of the season,” Brown said. “We’ve got 11 more games to go. We’ve just got to keep working and clean it up.”