Southern can’t find comfort zone

LAFAYETTE — Southern had measured hopes that a revitalized rushing attack would take pressure off of its young quarterbacks Saturday evening, but that plan never got off the bus.

The Southern bus itself was late as it arrived at Louisiana-Lafayette’s Cajun Field just 45 minutes before kickoff, but the holdup wasn’t I-10 traffic. A handful of starters had been hoping for last-minute academic certifications that never came. As a result, Southern‘s journey to Lafayette was delayed until it could wait no more.

No one was blaming Southern’s 45-6 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette on the delay. Coach Dawson Odums had praise for the way his team handled the day’s twists and turns.

“I was happy with how we competed,” Odums said. “It’s been a long day for us. I’m grateful for the young men, and for the families that trust them being in my hands. Playing the way they did after the way our day started out shows what kind of young men we have in our program.”

The on-field lineup subtractions included starting offensive tackle Reginald Redding, and Terrell Lee, who slides into the first unit when Redding is out. At running back, Malcolm Crockett, who had been first on the depth chart, didn’t get clearance.

An additional wrinkle came into play during the first quarter when wide receiver Randall Menard was lost for the game with a foot injury. But it all started with a morning delay that had the Jaguars scrambling to squeeze in warm-up activities before kickoff.

“It’s a mindset,” Odums said. “You’ve got to alter what you normally do. In this game there’s no such thing as a comfort zone. You have routines, but sometimes they’re altered.

“You have to adapt and overcome. Today we adapted, but we didn’t overcome.”

Some of the adaptations came on the offensive line, where Jamal Boulden and Neako Jones, two walk-ons, saw action against the Ragin’ Cajuns. Odums liked what he saw.

“I don’t think the offensive line gave up a sack. With two walk-ons?,” Odums said. “They went toe-to-toe with some massive individuals. I’m proud of them.”

At quarterback, Deonte Shorts started before true freshman Austin Howard came off the bench in each half. Howard already knew he would get a series or two in the game, but his quality of play kept him in the game for most of the second half.

Howard directed Southern’s best first-half drive, a five-play, 64-yarderthat ended with Kyle Yonke’s missed 28-yard field goal try. Howard’s 56-yard completion to Willie Quinn was the key play.

In the third quarter, Howard led Southern on a 10-play, 80-yard drive capped by his 23-yard touchdown pass to tight end Bradley Coleman.

“(Howard) takes control of the huddle,” Coleman said. “There are some things, I wouldn’t say he shouldn’t be able to do them, but he understands the game. He does things that an older quarterback would.”

Howard benefited from an offensive line that, true to Odums’ memory, kept Southern quarterbacks from being sacked. The running game was held to 77 yards, but Howard finished the game 18 of 31 for 181 yards. He also didn’t throw an interception, part of a turnover-free game for the Jaguars.

“I was happy, excited for (Howard),” Coleman said. “He’s been working hard since the first day he got on campus. He got in there and made things happen for us.”

He’s also given Odums and the Southern offense plenty to think about before the next game.