Sophomore quarterback Ladarius Skelton earned a place in Southern University football lore – and Jaguar fans’ hearts– with his Bayou Classic performance Saturday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
Skelton, a transfer from Fullerton (Calif.) Community racked up 296 yards total offense and led the Jaguars to a 38-28 victory over arch-rival Grambling State. The victory catapulted the Jaguars into the SWAC Championship Game, where they will face five-time defending East Division champion Alcorn State in Lorman, Miss., Saturday. Equally as important, the win snapped Southern’s three-game losing streak against the hated G-Men that had Jaguar fans in a snit.
Southern was 2-3 and coming off a humbling 20-3 Homecoming loss to Alcorn when Coach Dawson Odums inserted Skelton into the starting lineup. Skelton has guided the Jaguars (7-3, 5-2 SWAC) to five straight wins. They have outscored opponents 194-66 during their winning streak.
Skelton is accustomed to winning. He led Pine Bluff (Ark.) High School to two State Championships, and he led Fullerton to the 2017 JUCO National Championship and an undefeated season.
His winning pedigree showed against Grambling (6-5, 4-3 SWAC) as he threw three touchdowns, with two coming in the second half when the Jaguars took command of the game.
“I thought he made some third-down plays, runs with his feet and great throws on his own,” Southern coach Odums said. “His confidence is through the roof. Our receivers know he’s got a chance to get them the ball. He’s got great command of the offense, and he did some really good things. He did a couple bad things, but he played the next play.”
Southern took an early 7-0 lead when Kordel Caldwell blocked a punt by Garrett Urban on Grambling’s first possession and linebacker Benjamin Harris recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. The G-Men put together a 10-play, 95-yard scoring drive later in the quarter to tie the score at 7-all. Grambling’s score came on a 30-yard pass from Geremy Hickbottom to Darrell Clark.
The Jaguars led 17-10 thanks to Skelton’s 23-yard touchdown pass to Trey Smith and Cesar Barajas’s 47-yard field goal. Urban kicked a 33-yard field goal with 33 seconds remaining in the second quarter for Grambling’s final points of the first half.
The Jaguars took control of the game in the third quarter as Skelton threw a pair of touchdown passes. He connected with Kendall Catalan on an 80-yard scoring strike, and he tossed a 44-yarder to Randall Menard to put the Jaguars ahead 31-13.
Hickbottom scored on runs of one and four yards in the fourth quarter to give Grambling hope of pulling out a win. But Southern put the game away on Devon Benn’s two-yard touchdown run midway through the quarter. Benn ran for 167 yards in the contest. But Skelton was clearly the star of the day.
“We knew he was elusive,” Grambling coach Broderick Fobbs said of Fobbs. “We knew we had to contain him, and we didn’t.”
Alabama State 31, Mississippi Valley State 24, OT – The Hornets rallied from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to win the 95th Turkey Day in Montgomery, Ala. Thursday. It was the third overtime victory of the season for Alabama State (4-7, 3-4 SWAC). Mississippi Valley (1-10, 1-6 SWAC) led 24-14 entering the fourth quarter, but a costly turnover gave Alabama State life.
Daymon Harris knocked the ball loose from Delta Devils quarterback Dejerric Bryant on the first play of the final period, and the Hornets recovered it. Quarterback KHA’Darris Davis made Mississippi Valley pay for the miscue by connecting with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Joe Williams IV.
The Delta Devils helped the Hornets’ cause with a 15-yard personal foul penalty. Hunter Hanson kicked a 33-yard field goal with 1:55 left in regulation to tie the score at 24-all. Alabama State got the ball first in the overtime period and scored on a six-yard pass from Davis to Jeremiah Hixon. The Hornets ended the game when Dennis Roberts IV sacked Bryant on a fourth down pass attempt. The Delta Devils were their own worst enemy in their.
They held Alabama State to 286 total yards, including only 49 yards rushing. But they were guilty of four turnovers, including three interceptions, as they suffered their fifth straight loss. Davis was the offensive star for Alabama State. The sophomore completed 21 of 39 passes for 237 yards and a career-high four touchdowns.
Mississippi Valley used a potent running game to take command of the game through the first three quarters. The Delta Devils gained 307 yards on the ground. Bryant led the way with 114 yards. However, their passing attack was anemic. They only generated 81 yards through the air, and Bryant threw three interceptions.
North Carolina Central 21, South Carolina State 17 – The Eagles trailed 10-0 at the before rallying to an MEAC road win in a game that was rescheduled from Sept. 15 because of Hurricane Florence. The Bulldogs (5-6, 4-3 MEAC) had their four-game winning streak snapped in what might have been Coach Buddy Pough’s final game at the helm
Pough signed a one-year contract extension last year that expires Dec. 31. Pough is No. 2 on the South Carolina State victory list with 125 wins in 17 seasons. He is four victories shy of passing Willie Jeffries for the top spot.
The Bulldogs seemed well on their way to another victory for Pough with a 10-0 after quarterback Tyrece Nick connected with Will Vereen on a 12-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter and Dillon Bredesen kicked a 20-yard field goal.
North Carolina Central (4-5, 3-4) MEAC) trimmed the lead to 10-7 in the third quarter on quarterback Domini Shoffner’s 31-yard touchdown pass to Tyquan Watson. The Eagles took control of the contest as Watson scored on a 19-yard and 41-yard reception from Shoffner. Nick tossed a 30-yard touchdown pass to Quan Caldwell with 5:46 for South Carolina State’s final points.
Prairie View A&M 60, Texas Southern 14 – The Panthers reach the 60-point plateau for the second consecutive as they ended the season with a blowout home victory against the SWAC rival Tigers. The Panthers (5-6, 4-3 SWAC) defeated Alabama State 66-13 last week.
They rolled up 579 yards total offense against Texas Southern (2-9, 1-6 SWAC) while holding the Tigers to just 185 total yards. The Panthers’ defense intercepted three passes. Prairie View quarterback Jalen Morton completed 18 of 26 passes fo 185 yards and a touchdown, and he ran the ball 10 times for 111 yards before giving way to Trazon Connley, his backup. Connley completed all 12 of his attempts for 169 yards and two touchdowns.
Valdosta State 66, Bowie State 14 – The CIAA champion Bulldogs’ Division II playoff run came to an unceremonious end thanks to a second-half breakdown. Bowie State (10-3), making its second-ever playoff appearance after losing in the first round last year, trailed 21-16 at the half. The Blazers (11-0) exploded for 45 points in the second half to put the game away.
Quarterback Amir Hall completed 20 of 36 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns in final collegiate game. But Hall’s passing was no match for Valdosta State’s balanced offense the produced 549 total yards, 288 rushing and 261 passing.