Southern starts hot and keeps it close for a while in loss to Memphis

Southern starts hot and keeps it close for a while in loss to Memphis
Southern linebacker Jordan Lewis (No. 32) sacked Memphis quarterback Brady White, stripped the ball, scooped it up, and scored a 74-yard touchdown. (Source: Craig Loper/WAFB-TV)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WAFB) - Southern came out the gate hot and kept the game close for about 2.5 quarters before Memphis pulled away Saturday.

The Jags fell 55-24 to the Tigers.

Jamar Washington scored on a 7-yard run on the first drive to give the Jags a 7-0 lead. The drive was five plays for 75 yards and took only 2:52. On the drive, both quarterback Ladarius Skelton and running back Devon Benn had runs for 29 yards. Memphis tried to respond and put together a drive that got the Tigers down to the Southern 5-yard line, but the Jaguar defense buckled down and forced a field goal to make it 7-3.

Later, the Tigers scored on a 55-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brady White to wide receiver Antonio Gibson to give Memphis the 10-7 lead over Southern. With less than 1:00 left in the first quarter, Memphis blocked a Southern punt and the ball was returned 27 yards for a touchdown to extend the Tigers' lead to 17-7.

The Jags regrouped and put together a nice drive in the second quarter that reached pay dirt. Skelton connected with tight end Jeremias Houston for a 4-yard touchdown that capped off a 17-play, 75-yard drive that chewed up just over 10:00 on the clock. Southern trailed just 17-14 after the score. Later, Memphis running back Kenneth Gainwell exploded for a 46-yard touchdown run to make it 24-14.

Before halftime, Southern kicker Martel Fontenot was true from 34 yards out to put it back to a one-possession game at 27-17. However, the Tigers responded with a quick drive that resulted in a 49-yard field goal to make it 27-17 at the half. Southern totaled 243 yards on offense in the first half to 230 by Memphis. The Jags picked up 157 yards on the ground, while the Tigers had 163 yards through the air. The Jags also led the time of possession in the first half with 22:25.

Memphis took the opening kickoff of the second half 58 yards in 11 plays, culminating in a 6-yard touchdown run by Kylan Watkins to extend the Tigers' lead to 34-17. Southern replaced Skelton with Bubba McDaniel on its first drive of the third quarter. Southern's defense kept the pressure on Memphis' quarterback. Linebacker Jordan Lewis sacked White and forced a fumble. Lewis then scooped up the ball and went 74 yards for a touchdown to make it 34-24.

However, on the Tigers' next possession, they easily went down the field and scored again, aided by a pitch-and-catch between White and wide receiver Kedarian Jones for 65 yards. Gainwell capped off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to make it 41-24. Then, Memphis blocked a Southern punt and on the next play, White hooked up with Gainwell for a 21-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 48-24.

In the fourth quarter, running back Rodrigues Clark went 10 yards for another Memphis touchdown to make it 55-24. Skelton returned for the Jags but left the game with what looked like an injury on his left arm. Skelton finished 17-of-15 for 86 yards and a touchdown. He also ran the ball 14 times for another 80 yards.

White was 17-of-21 for 337 yards and two touchdowns. The Memphis offense totaled 575 yards.

Memphis wide receiver Damonte Coxie, a native of Baton Rouge, had six catches for 112 yards. Coxie played his high school ball at Tara and East St. John.

Craig Loper was at the game. He will have highlights and post game reaction on WAFB at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.

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