Southern hopes layoff will help defense get better
As the clock mercifully wound down on Southern’s 66-21 loss to New Mexico on Saturday, Lobos coach Bob Davie was glad to see it hit zeroes.
“That was about the longest football game I’ve ever been in,” Davie said. “The first half I didn’t think would ever end.”
That was because the Lobos kept scoring.
They posted 38 points in the second quarter — the school’s most since it began tracking the statistic in 1946 — and scored three touchdowns in a span of 1:54 during that frame.
Overall, it was New Mexico’s highest point total and largest margin of victory since 2008, and its first season-opening win since 2005.
Not all of that falls on Southern’s defense, however. UNM scored three touchdowns on fumble, interception and kickoff returns, but it was clearly a painful day for the defensive unit.
Still, coordinator Dawson Odums was more inclined to look on the bright side, particularly encouraged by the fact that Southern has time to work on its fundamental flaws before beginning Southwestern Athletic Conference play against Mississippi Valley State on Sept. 13.
“This game comes down to blocking and tackling, and we just believe that if we get better at those things, we’ll get better on defense,” Odums said. “The good thing about it is, we get a little bit of time before we play our Thursday night opener against Mississippi Valley, and we’re just looking forward to getting back on the practice field.”
SU finishes strong(er)
Here’s a statistic that wasn’t heard much last season: Southern’s offense had its most success during the fourth quarter on Saturday, posting its best totals for points (eight) and yards (124) in that frame.
Last year, Southern was outscored 79-26 in the final period — its fewest points scored and most allowed of any quarter — but won that battle 8-7 against New Mexico, which mostly played backups toward the end of the game.
With SU quarterback Dray Joseph sidelined because of cramps, the weakened defense gave SU backup J.P. Douglas a chance to shine, and he did by leading a 75-yard touchdown drive, completing a two-point-conversion pass and going 8-of-14 for 79 yards and a score in the fourth quarter.
Up-and-down day for Tuten
It’s hard to call punting a silver lining of Southern’s rough day, but it was at least a titanium one.
Freshman punter Chase Tuten started strong with a 48-yard punt on the first drive that rolled to the UNM 22, but he followed with a 14-yarder out of bounds. Tuten finished the day with four punts for 128 yards, a 32-yard average that was below the team’s mark of 34.9 last season.
But on net yardage, Tuten was just ahead of the 2011 pace (31.4). None of Tuten’s four punts were returned — one of the special-teams unit’s focal points for this year.
No hurricane excuse
While lost practice time because of weather was a major problem for Southern’s defense in trying to prepare for New Mexico’s pistol-formation option offense, the Jaguars’ offense can’t place any blame on Mother Nature.
The struggles of that group were due to poor execution, not being unfamiliar with the scheme.
“We’ve been running these plays for three years now, and the plays we had in the game plan were the same ones we did the whole fall camp,” Joseph said. “For the most part, we were comfortable with those things. We just have to come out and execute better.”