The Southern football team returned to the practice fields Monday looking for answers to their disappointing performance in Friday’s season opener.
The Jaguars were plagued by mistakes in their opening contest, including 10 penalties, four turnovers and two blocked extra-point attempts in the 62-13 loss to the Cougars.
Coach Dawson Odums and his staff placed an emphasis on ball security and mental miscues during Monday’s practice.
“Turnovers and missed tackles cost us,” Odums said. “You can’t have those kinds of mistakes going against a FBS school.”
However, it was not all negative in the opener for the Jaguars as there were plenty of positives, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
“We played pretty well on offense,” Odums said. “We were able to move the ball up and down the field.”
Senior quarterback Dray Joseph was efficient with his passing, completing 27 of 36 pass attempts for 268 yards and two touchdowns.
Joseph was intercepted once, but it came off a deflection at the line of scrimmage.
“I think (Dray) Joseph played well,” Odums said. “He did a great job of managing the game, not taking sacks, throwing the ball away, and getting rid of the ball in a timely manner. We’re really pleased with where he’s at. With him at the helm, I think we have a great chance moving forward.”
Heading into the season, the Jaguars were looking for a playmaker opposite of senior All-Southwestern Athletic receiver Lee Doss to help open up the passing game.
When Joseph dropped backed to pass in Friday’s opener, he found sophomore receiver Willie Quinn six times for 77 yards and a touchdown — a 38-yard strike down the left sideline.
Junior receiver Sam Altman also provided a boost in the Southern passing game, grabbing four passes for 74 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown reception from Joseph.
“Those are two fantastic football players,” Odums said of Quinn and Altman. “I think our receiving corps is very deep. We have a lot of talent outside, and the guys work extremely hard to get better.”
Odums was additionally pleased with the play of senior running back Darrius Coleman, who came in for Kylum Favorite after a fumble early on.
“He did outstanding,” Odums said of Coleman. “He ran the ball extremely hard. We were very pleased with the way he ran the football for us.”
After the fumble, Odums said he felt it was a good teaching lesson to have Favorite, a freshman from West St. John, watch and learn from the sideline.
“We’re trying to teach the young freshmen that you’ve got to protect the football,” Odums said. “Those are the lessons they’ve got to learn. You’ve got to sit them down and just give them a chance to watch and understand how important it is to protect the football.
“I think it’s a lesson that you teach freshmen. And once they get it, they become that much better.”
Odums said the Jaguars will look to build upon the encouraging plays in preparation for Northwestern State on Saturday.
“We took the positives from that football game, and we harped to the team on Sunday,” he said. “We’ll harp on them again (Monday) and just get the guys ready and get them to continue to believe.”
Odums was pleased with how the Jaguars came out on the injury front against Houston.
“We had a couple of guys dinged up, but you’re going to have that over the course of a football game,” he said. “But we didn’t lose anybody to an injury.”
Starting running back Lenard Tillery returned to practice Monday but was held out of contact drills after missing the season opener.
Tillery is expected to miss Saturday’s game the Demons, according to Odums.
Junior receiver Bradley Brown and sophomore safety Dionte McDuffy both sat out Friday’s game against Houston for academic reasons.
The two players’ status for Saturday’s game remains in question.
Tickets are available for the Southern-Northwestern State game, the first meeting of the teams in 11 years.
All tickets are reserved seats at $20. They are available online at NSUDemons.com/tickets and can be purchased in person or on the telephone at the Southern (225-771-3171) and Northwestern State (318-357-4268) athletic ticket offices.
Turpin Stadium, which holds 15,971 seats, has sold out each of Southern’s four previous visits in 1994, 1996, 1998 and 2000. The teams last met in 2002 in Shreveport.
Fans driving RVs can reserve parking slots for $30 through both ticket offices.
There is a $10 parking fee for vehicles entering the south side of the campus surrounding the Stadium. There are free parking areas on the north side of campus within walking distance of the stadium.