Southern defeated Jackson State 34-27 in double overtime Saturday at Reliant Stadium in a game for the ages as the Southwestern Athletic Conference returned to Houston, its birthplace in 1920, for its 15th conference championship game.
It was the first double-overtime contest in championship game history, and the crowd of 38,895, the third-largest ever got its money’s worth. The game came within a shoe size of going into a third overtime. It ended with Jackson State quarterback Clayton Moore scrambling to his right and lobbing a pass to running back Tommy Gooden, who was wide open along the sideline in the end zone after running a wheel route. However, Gooden lost sight of where he was on the field and was on the out of bounds line when he caught the ball.
The referee ruled the pass was incomplete, a call which was upheld by video replay, and Southern its third title in the championship game era and the 19th in school history overall.
“It’s an honor,’’ said first-year Southern coach Dawson Odums. “God has been our side. For us to start 0-2 and some of our own beloved writing us off, to end our season as the 2013 SWAC champions, it’s an honor to say that. When we watched the film to show them of all the work they put in just to remind them that we’re supposed to be here and we have just as much right win this football game as Jackson State.‘’
Odums replaced Stump Mitchell as coach on an interim basis last season after the Jaguars got off to a 0-2 start. Southern won four of its remaining nine games in 2012, and that was good enough for Odums to have the interim tag removed from his title.
Odums said his team had additional motivation going into the championship after being snubbed in the voting for the all-conference team. Quarterback Dray Joseph, wide receiver Lee Doss and offensive linemen Anthony Mosley were the only first-team. No Jaguars were named to the second team.
“We know we weren’t the favorites,’’ Odums said. “We could tell by the selection of the All-SWAC team that we weren’t the favorites. I was very disappointed that you could be playing in the SWAC Championship Game and only have three guys who make the All-SWAC Team. Either something is wrong with the voting or the people who are voting aren’t watching football.’’
Joseph was also the Co-Offensive Player of Year. He shared the award with ‘Alcorn State running back Arnold Walker.
Southern and Jackson State have a history of playing cliffhangers, The Jaguars defeated the Tigers 31-30 in the inaugural conference championship game in Birmingham, Ala., site of the first 14 title contests.
Saturday’s game was a virtual replay of the team’s regular season contest in Baton Rouge, La. This time, however, the roles were reversed. In that game it was Southern that needed a touchdown at the end to win. However, quarterback Dray Joseph’s pass into the end zone with 42 seconds remaining was incomplete, and Jackson State emerged with 19-14 win.
Saturday’s outcome was what Odums predicted. He told his team the Jaguars would win by seven someone would have to make a play at the end to win the game..
“I should play the lottery,’’ he said.
For Jackson State, it was the second consecutive year that it has suffered a gut-wrenching loss in the championship game. Last year the Tigers lost to Arkansas-Pine Bluff 24-21 in overtime after leading the entire contest. They gave up a 95-yard touchdown pass in the final minutes of regulation for the tying points.
“It was anybody’s game there at the end,’’ Jackson State coach Rick Comegy said, adding that he had no quarrel with the ruling on the final play.
“He lost perception of field presence,’’ Comegy said. “When the throw was made, he was on the line. He was clearly on the line. It was a good call.’’