With 78 yards on 30 carries, Southern’s rushing game was nothing to write home about against New Mexico, but there were some positives.
Namely, Darrius Coleman.
The Jaguars’ starting running back by virtue of injuries, Coleman ran for 66 yards on 18 carries, an average of 3.7 yards. Those aren’t world-beating numbers, but in a 66-21 loss, it’ll have to do as a good sign.
“We were decent, actually, in running the ball some,” coach Stump Mitchell said. “There are some things we still have to work on in terms of pad leverage and the right step when we’re running inside zone, but I was pretty much pleased with what we did.”
Running back Terrance Clayton chipped in 13 yards on two carries, while fullbacks Brian McCain and Lee Mitchell combined for 5 yards and a touchdown on three carries. The rest of the rushing output came from scrambles and sacks by quarterbacks Dray Joseph and J.P. Douglas.
Coleman was the featured performer, as Joseph (five carries) was the only other player with more than two carries, and Mitchell liked what he saw. Coleman’s best moment came on SU’s second drive, when he picked up 15 yards on a draw play to convert on third-and-10.
“He’s elusive,” Mitchell said. “He can definitely make some things happen once he gets in the open field. I think the one thing he needs to develop a little bit more is patience as a runner. But once he gets in the open field one-on-one, I think he can make most people miss.”
Good thing, too, because there’s no certainty that the team’s expected starters will return from injuries in time for the home opener against Mississippi Valley State on Sept. 13. Sylvester Nzekwe (ankle) and Jerry Joseph (knee surgery) were both hurt early in preseason camp, and while Joseph was originally slated to return against the Delta Devils, Mitchell isn’t counting on either at this point.
“I don’t even question it. Whenever I see them come out in a uniform and ready to practice, then they’re part of it. Other than that, I don’t worry about them,” he said.
On Tuesday, Nzekwe said he expected to return to practice full speed on Saturday.
Better teams to come
It’s a comforting thought that New Mexico would be the toughest opponent Southern will see this season, but Mitchell isn’t convinced.
“We’ll face teams better than New Mexico. We’re playing in the SWAC,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell went on to clarify that statement by saying he was referring to UNM’s defense, which allowed Southern to gain 320 yards, convert on seven of 13 third downs and score touchdowns on three of four trips to the red zone — numbers that gave him confidence despite the lopsided scoreboard.
“Just like we were not able to stop them, if we don’t have the turnovers, I don’t think they would have been able to stop us either,” Mitchell said.
In advance of their game against Mississippi Valley State on Thursday, Sept. 13, the Jaguars altered their practice schedule. Southern will run on Wednesday, take Thursday and Friday off, and return to practice on Saturday and Sunday.