NATCHITOCHES — Co-offensive coordinator Chad Germany and the Southern coaching staff placed a heavy emphasis on upgrading the Jaguars’ running game during preseason practice.
They appeared to show improvement in the Aug. 30 season opener at Houston, when senior running back Darrius Coleman gained 91 yards.
But on Saturday night against Northwestern State, Southern’s ground game was stymied.
The Jaguars have not produced a 1,000-yard rusher since 2003, and they didn’t have their first 100-yard rusher last year until the eighth game.
Saturday night, Southern’s first four possessions were designed running plays. They gained 3 total yards.
“I think we just have to continue to work on the fundamentals on offense,” Germany said. “(We need to) keep giving those guys opportunities to make the blocks and the backs more opportunities to run the ball.
“I think we just have to go back to the drawing board and try to run the ball more effectively. We didn’t execute our game plan very well, and maybe we just have to simple it down.”
The Jaguars accumulated just 17 yards on 18 carries in the first half, and Coleman, the team’s starting tailback, managed only 61 yards on 35 carries.
As a team, Southern averaged 1.7 yards per carry.
“I think we had the right game plan,” head coach Dawson Odums said. “We just didn’t execute it. We looked at how they lined up and thought that we might be able to run the football. Obviously, we didn’t a very good job of doing that tonight. And that’s something that we are going to have to talk about and we’ll make some adjustments.”
After a 10-year hiatus, the Southern Jaguars and Northwestern State Demons renewed their in-state rivalry Saturday night.
In 10 previous meetings, the two teams had split the series at five games apiece. The Demons took a 6-5 edge with Saturday’s victory. They have won the last four meetings.
The status of sophomore safety Dionte McDuffy remains in question as he did not travel with the football team to Saturday’s game because of academic issues.
Freshman defensive back Blake Monroe replaced McDuffy as the starting safety for the second straight game.
Additionally, junior wide receiver Bradley Brown, who also sat out the season opener with academic issues, traveled with the team but did not play. Brown’s status going forward remains in question.
Northwestern State entered Saturday’s matchup with a streak of four consecutive sellouts at Turpin Stadium when hosting the Jaguars (1994, 1996, 1998 and 2000).
Saturday’s matchup brought in 14,873 fans, the sixth-largest crowd in stadium history. Four of the top attended games in the stadium’s history have come when the Demons played host to Southern, with the highest showing in stadium history of 17,528 in 2000.
The Jaguars were outscored 182-98 in the first halves of games last season and were outscored 27-6 in their 2013 season opener against Houston.
Southern’s early-game struggles continued Saturday as the Demons outscored the Jaguars 31-7 the first 30 minutes.
Northwestern State running back Daniel Taylor scored his seventh career touchdown in just 11 career games.
Taylor, a sophomore from Lutcher High School, hauled in a 6-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Zach Adkins with five minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Taylor has now notched seven scorers on the first 73 touches of his college career.
Southern sophomore wide receiver Willie Quinn returned a third-quarter kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown — the longest in Turpin Stadium history, topping the previous record of 97 yards, which was set by Mississippi Valley State’s Phillip Harvey last season.
Starting running back Lenard Tillery sat out as he continues to rehab a lower leg injury.
The sophomore is expected back next week for the Jaguars home opener against Prairie View.
A number of Southern players suffered from cramps throughout Saturday’s game, including quarterback Dray Joseph and linebackers Franchot West and Anthony Balancier. Joseph and Balancier returned to the game. West did not return.