Southern struggles early against Jackson St. in SWAC Championship
JACKSON, Miss. (WAFB) - The Southern Jaguars (7-5, 5-3 SWAC) fought hard against the Jackson State Tigers (12-0, 8-0 SWAC) in Mississippi for the SWAC Championship on Saturday, Dec. 3, but it wasn’t enough.
Southern fell 43-24 to Jackson State. The Jags turned the ball over five times but the ones that did the most damage happened in the first 10:00 of the game.
After struggles and turnovers by both BeSean McCray and Harold Blood, Bubba McDaniel provided a spark for the Southern offense. He finished 14-of-32 passing for 217 yards and a touchdown but also threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter. He carried the ball 20 times for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
McCray and Blood combined for just 1-of-2 passing for -3 yards, one interception, and two fumbles in the first quarter. The pair also accounted for 0 yards rushing on five carries.
Shedeur Sanders was 32-of-45 for 327 yards and four touchdowns.
Southern trailed 3-0 after an Alejandro Mata 22-yard field goal on Jackson State’s first drive of the game. However, the Jags made their first mistake of the game when McCray was picked off by Herman Smith III and returned 37 yards to the Southern one-yard line. Sy’veon Wilkerson punched it in from one-yard out a couple of plays later to give the Tigers the 10-0 lead with 8:26 left in the first quarter.
Southern head coach Eric Dooley then turned to Blood to try to get the offense going but he was quickly sacked twice, including a strip-sack by SWAC Defensive Player of the Year Aubrey Miller Jr. that was pounced on by Antonio Doyle Jr. at the 14-yard line. On the very next play, Sanders connected with Shane Hooks for the 14-yard touchdown. A successful two-point try gave the Tigers the 18-0 lead with 6:35 left in the first quarter.
Dooley then put the ball back in McCray’s hands but he suffered a similar fate to Blood, as the ball was dislodged on a strip-sack by Baron Hopson and recovered by Justin Ragin. Three plays later, the Sanders-Hooks connection resulted in a 40-yard touchdown. Another two-point conversion made it 26-0 in the first quarter.
Dooley then turned to McDaniel, who led the Jags on a 12-play, 82-yard scoring drive that was capped off with him calling his own number on a 4-yard touchdown run to make it 26-7 early in the second quarter.
Sanders then led Jackson State on another scoring drive. This one went 85 yards in seven plays and ended with a 14-yard touchdown toss to Kevin Coleman to make it 33-7. McDaniel was later able to get the Jags in field goal range and Joshua Griffin nailed a 39-yarder as time expired to make it 33-10 at halftime.
Jackson State got the ball first in second half but the Southern defense forced a punt, which was blocked by Rodney Johnson. Four plays later, McDaniel threw a 34-yard touchdown to Chandler Whitfield to make it 33-17 with 11:49 remaining in the third quarter.
Jackson State then had to settle for a field goal to go up 36-17. McDaniel later called his own number again and scampered 42 yards for a touchdown to make it 36-24. It was Southern’s final points of the game.
The Tigers scored again at the end of the quarter on a 9-yard toss from Sanders to Rico Powers to make it 43-24.
Jackson State will face North Carolina Central in the Celebration Bowl in Atlanta on Dec. 17.
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