For a quarter, it looked as if the battle of the Tigers at Veterans Memorial Stadium between Texas Southern and host Jackson State would be another tough SWAC battle.
Then, the second quarter came and TSU’s kicking game went as JSU built up a commanding 37-7 halftime lead, en route to a 58-13 pummeling.
Making matters worse, coming into the game, TSU was ranked number one in the nation in defense (144 yards per game) and seventh if points given up with (16.67).
Those rankings changed well before the end of TSU’s second-quarter debacle.
Texas Southern kicker Francois Ejiofor had two punts blocked, another two muffed forcing him to take huge yardage losses and a fifth go only 19 yards. An example of Ejiofor’s nightmare went something like this. On a TSU, he punted for just 19 yards. On the next possession, the exchanged was blown, Ejiofor tried to make something out of nothing, fumbled and watched Tim Dandridge of Jackson State return it 16 yards for a score.
On the ensuing possession, Ejiofor’s punt was blocked. And, finally, on the fourth consecutive possession, the punt was botched and Ejiofor lost 12 yards.
For Jackson State (4-1, 2-1 SWAC), it was a cornucopia of gifts that the Tigers turned into a rout.
Tommy Gooden got Jackson State on the board in the second quarter with a 30-yard run. Later, Marcellos Wilder snagged a 46-yard scoring strike from Casey Therriault to put JSU up 13-0.
Marquise Dunn added an 11-yard run, set up by JSU’s defense, which sacked Texas Southern signal caller Riko Smalls twice and fouled up Ejiofor’s punt, forcing a fumble and 16-yard loss.
Dandridge followed with the return of a blocked punt. Therriault added a five-yard scoring run after a muffed kick cost TSU 12 yards and a turnover on downs. By this time, it was 34-0.
Martin Gilbert finally got Texas Southern (2-2, 1-2 SWAC) on the board with a swift 42-yard run that caught JSU’s secondary napping.
Jackson State came back just before the half with a 36-yard field goal from Jabril Smith, set up by two TSU pass interference calls.
In the third quarter, TSU looked much better, driving the length of the field and sending Gilbert in from seven yards for his second score of the day. However, a two-point conversion run failed and TSU trailed 37-13.
Jackson State responded with Therriault’s 32-yard touchdown pass to Renty Rollins, who led all receivers with 136 yards on five catches.
TSU got the ball again, in good field position, when Kydarian Wilkins intercepted Therriault at the JSU 26. However, facing fourth-and-three on the Jackson State 7-yard line, rather than kick a field goal, TSU put the ball into Gilbert’s hands. However, the JSU defense stuffed him for a loss.
In the fourth quarter, Therriault hit Joshua Miller from four yards out to increase the lead to 51-13. Even then, though, Texas Southern’s pain didn’t end as special teams failed yet again.
Kris Selita punted and TSU’s Joe Anderson fumbled the ball for Shaun Wilmore to fall on at the TSU 15. On the next play, backup running back Tim Rush gained 15 yards and, with 40 seconds left in the game, the assault was complete, 58-13.
Therriault, who threw for 410 yards but was picked off six times in last week’s 21-14 loss to Alabama State, completed 15 of 27 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns, with just one interception.
Jackson State rolled up 408 yards.
Riko Small was 15 of 30 for 139 yards and a pick for TSU. He was also sacked five times, his offensive line shredded by a rampaging JSU defense that treated Francois Ejiofor even worse.
Gilbert finished the game with 139 rushing yards on 23 carries for TSU.
Jackson State will host Arkansas-Pine Bluff Oct. 8 at 4 p.m., while Texas Southern will take on Alabama State in Houston at 1 p.m.