It was a hot and steamy day for Southern’s season opener on the Bluff, but in the end, Jaguar fans left happy with a 14-8 win over South Carolina State in a defensive fight to the end.
The SWAC/MEAC Challenge got a little stressful at times, with the Jags dodging some bullets late in the game.
This game was all about heart, will, and want to. When it came down to it, the Southern defense held on to a six-point lead in the game. Senior cornerback Danny Johnson, the East Feliciana High product, made one of the biggest plays of his career in the Jaguars’ first win of the season.
"Coach Oliver talked about it all week, this was going to be a defensive game," Johnson said. "They talked about their defense so much and we know what our defense is capable of doing. That's what we harp on day in and day out and I just feel like it all showed in this game. It was exciting. I live for big plays like that. I work on that every day and I worked on that a lot this offseason and it just showed."
"I didn't see Danny at first but when he jumped and I saw it was our No. 1 … nah, I'll take him any day of the week," head coach Dawson Odums said. "He was not going to let him catch that football. That's what happens when you have an All-American, a guy that has played as many snaps as he has played and the confidence that he plays with. You're right, I was thrilled that they threw it to him."
"From a defensive standpoint, I felt like we played a really good game," senior linebacker Aaron Tiller added. "We just have to clean it up Xs and Os, wise up, and turn up the effort a little more and it was just a relentless performance I feel like."
The defense shut out SCSU on third down. The Bulldogs were 0-for-10 on third down conversions. They did manage to convert a fourth down on the Jaguar defense. Southern's defense also had two takeaways, an interception and a fumble recovery.
Offensively, the Jags were a little choppy on the day, committing nine penalties for more than 100 yards. Southern rushed the ball 39 times for only 89 yards. Herbert Edwards led the way 65 yards. Running back Devon Benn and quarterback Austin Howard ran in Southern's two scores.
Coming into this game, guys spoke about losing the production from Willie Quinn and Lenard Tillery. Afterwards, Odums said the offense moved the ball up and down the field really well, but the players just have to finish.
When asked how they do that, he said they just go back, look at the tape, and make the proper adjustments. However, he added this first game and those jitters can sort of get to an offense early on.
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