The Southern Jaguars are just days away from hopping on Interstate 10 and heading west to Houston for what the football program hopes to be the first of three trips to the Space City.
Southern is set to kick off at 7 p.m. Friday against Houston in Reliant Stadium, home of the Houston Texans, on ESPN3.com.
The Jaguars also play at Texas Southern on Nov. 1. Then there’s a possible return trip to Reliant Stadium at the end of the season for the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game.
Houston is connected in many ways to Southern athletics. Not only is it a hotbed for recruiting, there is also a well-established alumni association in the city.
“Playing a game in Houston has tremendous value for our program,” Athletic Director William Broussard said. “Houston is not only an area where our athletic department recruits pretty heavily for student-athletes, but also the university. We have a robust alumni base in Houston, and it’s the largest Southern University alumni base outside the state of Louisiana.
“It’s a great game for a lot of our fans to be able to see to open the year to begin building the excitement for the season.”
Coach Dawson Odums said the opening game puts a spotlight on his team.
“It’s great for the young men to come out of the gates and play against a major Division I institution,” Odums said. “A lot of the kids didn’t have that opportunity (to play Division I football).”
Junior linebacker Detrane Lindsey and senior defensive end Dion Palmer, both Houston natives, are particularly excited about both the opportunity and the chance to return home.
“It means a lot to play in Houston,” Lindsey said. “We can’t wait to do our thing in front of our home crowd, in front of our friends and family, and make everyone proud.”
Palmer echoed Lindsey’s enthusiasm: “To me, it means a lot because it’s my senior year.”
Having grown up in Houston, both Lindsey and Palmer have friends and former teammates they will be squaring off against Friday.
But that doesn’t mean they have to be friends with them this week.
“With me, I am not making any contact with those guys right now,” Lindsey said.
Fellow Houston natives Jordan Bilbo, Jeremy Coleman, Wynton Perro and William Waddel also will be returning home.
Southern continued making final preparations for its season opener against the Cougars.
The Jaguars practiced again in full pads with a central focus on goal-line work.
“We got to be tough down there,” Odums said. “Red zone, goal line, third down — being good in those situations is how you become a great football team.
“I think the offense made some plays today, and the defense made some good ones as well. Overall, I felt we had a good balance on goal-line work today.”
Odums said the Jaguars will be without three key starters for the opener.
Freshman running back Lenard Tillery remains out with a leg injury, while fullback Brian McCain continues to work back from a lower leg injury that could cost him the first two months of the season.
Starting defensive end Donald Phillips will miss Friday’s game after injuring his knee in the team’s last intrasquad scrimmage.