Southern University welcomed back one of its greatest football teams for Saturday’s home opener against Prairie View.
Members of the 1993 squad, which won the Southwestern Athletic Conference and black college national titles, were on hand at A.W. Mumford Stadium.
The ’93 Jaguars finished 11-1, ending the year with a victory of South Carolina State in the Heritage Bowl. Defensive back Sean Wallace was the SWAC Defensive Player of the Year that season, and first-year coach Pete Richardson was Coach of the Year.
Wallace and quarterback Eric Randall served as team honorary captains for the pregame coin toss.
Richardson did not attend.
Prairie View coach Heishma Northern — a Glen Oaks High graduate and a member of the 1993 Southern team, returned home to square off against his alma mater.
Raasaan Haralson, another SU graduate, also returns to face his alma mater as a member of the Panthers coaching staff. Saturday also marked a homecoming of sorts for Prairie View offensive coordinator Mark Orlando, a longtime Richardson assistant.
Additionally, seven Prairie View football players returned to Louisiana for Saturday’s matchup, including four starters: Offensive lineman Denzel Lewis of Scotlandville High, offensive lineman Glenn Haisley of St. Augustine, running back Johnt á Hebert of Glen Oaks and running back Charles Brown of LaGrange.
Southern played without senior linebacker Anthony Balancier, who was suspended for Saturday’s game because of remarks he made toward Northwestern State before last week’s 55-14 loss.
Additionally, senior Lee Doss, the team’s leading receiver, was suspended for the first quarter for a “violation of team policy.”
Southern got a welcome addition to its lineup Saturday with the debut of freshman tailback Lenard Tillery.
Tillery figures to boost a rushing attack that yielded only 165 yards in the first two games. Tillery had been sidelined with a lower leg injury.
In addition to Tillery, the Jaguars had a bevy of new starters.
Cornerback Kevin King replaced Johnathan Mack, and middle linebacker Javon Allen stepped in for Franchot West. Defensive end Christian Allen started in place of Dion Palmer.
Jaguars switch defense
After flip-flopping last year between 4-3 and 3-4 schemes, coach Dawson Odums made the full switch to a 3-4 defense this offseason.
On Saturday, however, Southern employed a 3-3-5 look to compensate for the absence of Balancier.
Freshman defensive back Blake Monroe, who started the first two games safety, was moved to nickelback.
Sophomore Jamaal Martin was inserted into the lineup as the team’s starting free safety.
While returning a punt in the first quarter, senior defensive back and team co-captain Virgil Williams injured his ribs and left the game.
Williams did not return to action. His injury was announced as a “rib contusion.”
Freshman receiver Mike Jones recorded his first touchdown after reeling in in a 38-yard pass down the sideline from quarterback Dray Joseph.
Tillery notched his first career touchdown after scampering 33 yards up the middle, outracing defenders to the end zone.
A maddening trend continued for Southern, as the Jaguars were outscored in the first half for the third consecutive game.
Opponents outscored SU 58-13 in the first half of its first two games. In Saturday’s game, Prairie View tool a 29-13 lead into halftime.
Southern was outscored 182-98 in the first half of games last season.