At last, Mike Berry has arrived.
Underwhelming performances from Southern’s top returning receiver were among the biggest disappointments of the first two games, but since then, Berry has looked like the offensive weapon that was expected.
His breakout came via 117 yards and two touchdowns against Jackson State, and after a quiet game against Florida A&M, he again put up a solid performance against Alcorn State.
Berry led all receivers with 107 yards on four catches, most of it coming on a 75-yard touchdown in the third quarter that went for Southern’s first score of the day.
“They had a linebacker on me for some reason,” Berry said of the play, where he streaked down the middle of the field. “So I just beat him over the top, and that was all we needed.”
Berry now stands as the conference’s No. 2 receiver in yards per game (62), trailing JSU’s Rico Richardson (104) and just ahead of teammate Lee Doss (58).
While Berry — and SU’s offense as a whole — have work to do in terms of consistency, he’s looking more and more like the player who earned a spot on the preseason all-conference team and drew the attention of NFL scouts.
“With that hamstring injury in the beginning, I missed out on a lot of practices during camp, and when I came back I was still sort of sluggish and had to get back into it,” Berry said. “But I finally bounced back.”
While Southern’s second-half rally wasn’t quite enough at Alcorn, it did show a flash of cornerback D’Andre Woodland’s potential.
Woodland played a role in the tying and go-ahead scores, recovering Virgil Williams’ fumble in the end zone after a punt return, then intercepting a pass to set up an SU field goal.
The interception came on the drive after Woodland’s touchdown, when cornerback Marquon Webster came off the field with an injury and Woodland filled in.
“I think they saw a new face and wanted to just go at me,” Woodland said. “I was in a Cover 2, the receiver tried to push outside but I stayed outside of him, they tried to go at me and I just made a play.”
Woodland’s play set the Jaguars up with a short field, and while they couldn’t capitalize with a touchdown, Greg Pittman’s field goal did give Southern a lead.
But after SU went on to lose that lead, Woodland was left feeling bittersweet.
“I look at it as a progression that I could step in, and as (interim coach Dawson Odums) says, when your name is called, it’s time to make a play,” Woodland said. “I think I just did what I had to do as a player.”
Against Texas Southern (1-5, 1-3 Southwestern Athletic Conference) Odums’ squad will face another team that’s down in the standings and coming off a lopsided loss (45-0 to Alabama State).
But he won’t be paying much attention to either of those facts.
“I tell people all the time in the SWAC, don’t look at those records,” Odums said. “We know at Southern University that we’re going to get everybody’s best. Those records don’t indicate how everyone is playing. Each week is a new challenge. You have to forget about what happened last week, and you have to get prepared.”
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