After the Southern defense — a unit that had stifled one of the best offenses in the SWAC for three quarters allowed the tie-breaking touchdown to Florida A&M late in the fourth quarter — the Jaguars still had a chance to make a game of it.
Down 26-19 after FAMU quarterback Jeremy Moussa hit Jamari Gassett for a 12-yard TD, Southern got the ball back with 2:37 left in regulation.
During an 8-play drive that started at their own 28 and advanced to the FAMU 48-yard line before ending at near midfield, Southern, on two of those plays, decided to run.
On the first play, running back Kendric Rhymes took the shotgun handoff from Harold Blood and was stuffed at the line of scrimmage for no gain. Four plays after reaching the Rattlers’ 49-yard line, another run was called. Rhymes got it again for just three yards. At that point, 53 seconds remained, and the game clock running.
ESPNU TV color commentator Jay Walker, on the game call with play-by-play announcer Tiffany Greene, questioned why Southern was running the ball at all, considering the situation.
“They must have seen something in the scouting report they truly believe in, but nothing this situation says run the football,” said Walker as Southern fans could be heard on the broadcast booing the play call.
On the next play, Blood was sacked for a six-yard loss, and Southern was forced to burn its final timeout with 34 seconds on the clock.
The drive that only gained 20 yards and burned nearly all the game clock eventually ended with a completed pass in bounds to Colbey Washington for four yards and then an incomplete pass to wide receiver August Pitre on fourth down.
Dooley, after the game, explained why Southern decided to run the ball despite only having one timeout and needing a touchdown to tie the score.
“You always have to look at what the defense is trying to take away from you,” said Dooley. “If they’re going to drop eight (defenders), why throw it and create a fast turnover and have no opportunity? We have to make them play honest. We saw some things they were doing and should have given us a big play even though we were running it. That would have been just as good as a pass play.”
The justification by Dooley likely won’t sit well with Southern fans who vocally criticized the strategy in real-time. For what it’s worth, the loss by Southern doesn’t hurt the Jaguars in the SWAC West standings or prevent them from making a run at the SWAC championship game.
However, it does bring concern about whether the Jaguars can beat the best teams in the conference or whether they truly have a coach who can push them over the top.