Southern defeats Jackson St, 34-27 in 2 OT

By DARRELL LOVELL, Associated Press

HOUSTON — With the game on the line in overtime, the Southern Jaguars felt right at home. Saturday they cashed in that experience for a Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship in a 34-27 win over Jackson State.

Nobody on the field showed that experience more than senior quarterback Dray Joseph. The SWAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year led the Jaguars with 337 yards passing and three touchdowns, including a 16-yard touchdown pass to Lee Doss for in the second overtime to give Southern (9-4, 7-2) the championship.

The score came after place kicker Gregory Pittman missed a 37-yard field goal in the first overtime that would have ended the game.

"The biggest thing is to remain poised," Joseph said he told his team in the huddle after the miss. "We've been in these types of situations and it enabled us to be successful."

The win was the 14th SWAC championship for Southern and third title game win in four tries. For Jackson State (8-4, 8-1). it was another year of heartbreak.

The Tigers could not answer in second overtime. On 4th-and-5, quarterback Clayton Moore eluded tacklers and bought time to find Tommy Gooden, who had leaked free out of the backfield. His high-arching pass found Gooden, but he was ruled out of bounds.

"He lost his perception of field presence," Tigers head coach Rick Comegy said. "When the throw was made he was clearly on the line. I saw it; it was a good call by the official. We hoped it would go another way but it was a good call.

The blow was tough for the Tigers as it marked the second year in a row that the conference title slipped through their fingers in overtime.

Moore was 21 of 42 for 262 yards passing with two touchdowns.

"We lost a game that could've gone either way," Comegy said. "Somebody's got to lose and tonight we were the loser."

Ryan Deising sent the game into overtime, hitting a 37-yard field goal as time expired. Deising missed his first opportunity, but Southern head coach Dawson Odums called timeout before the ball was snapped. With a reprieve, Deising knocked the attempt right down the middle to send the game to overtime.

"You roll the dice there, but in like the last six games he hadn't missed a field goal. We were just trying to make him think about it. We were just trying to make him think about it. It's ironic he missed it there, " said Odums.

Deising was in that position after Southern took a fourth-quarter lead when running back Darrius Coleman's 1-yard TD run capped a 13-play drive to give Southern a 27-24 lead with 4:47 to go. After a pass interference call on Raphael Dent extended Sothern's drive, Coleman stretched the ball over the goal line for his first and only touchdown of the day.

Prior to the drive, Jackson St. looked to be in control at the 2:36 mark in the third quarter after scoring twice in a span of 13 seconds. Moore completed a 28-yard touchdown to Zachary Pendleton, who dropped a potential touchdown in the end zone the play before, to make it 20-17.

On the first play on the ensuing drive, defensive back Antonio Smith took a Lenard Tillery fumble 11 yards to give the Tigers a 24-20 lead with 2:36 to go in the third quarter.

While Joseph finished strong, he started slow. He came out of his shell in the second quarter throwing the first of two touchdowns to Willie Quinn, a 34-yard TD reception, giving Southern a 10-0 second quarter lead. After the teams traded field goals, Moore went 5 for 5 passing, leading the Tigers 73 yards in just 54 seconds. He capped the drive with a 25-yard pass to Zachary Pendleton to make it 13-10 at halftime.

The Joseph to Quinn connection struck for the second time. Quinn was originally rule down at the 1-yard line, but replay showed he broke the plane of the goal line to give Southern a 20-10 lead with 4:59 left in the third quarter and set up a thrilling finish.

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