On the flight home from New Mexico, Southern receiver Charles Hawkins thought long and hard about the way he played in the Jaguars’ 66-21 loss.
And he wasn’t happy with it.
“I really thought about all of the things I did on the field and all of the things I could have done,” Hawkins said. “I just told coach (Stump) Mitchell that I didn’t play as well as I should have, and it will never happen again.”
Mainly, Hawkins was apologizing for his blocking and hustle, but those were forgivable compared to the biggest sin of the receiving corps.
Too often, they weren’t receivers at all. They were droppers.
Like the two drops by tight end Rashaun Allen (one on third down), or the ball that went right through Lee Doss’ hands on the right sideline, a play that would have gone for a big gain and maybe even a touchdown. Then there was Mike Berry’s fumble after a first-down catch.
All in all, it just wasn’t a good day for the wideouts, who didn’t do enough to help out quarterback Dray Joseph. To make matters worse, the Jaguars turned the ball over on plays immediately following drops by Allen and Doss.
“All we wanted to do was execute what we do offensively,” Mitchell said. “We knew we would put points on the board. What I didn’t count on, and what I banked against, was us fumbling the ball, dropping passes — Dray Joseph could have easily, easily been 16-for-19, and had he done that, we’re scoring. It’s a track meet, and we’re going up and down the field.”
Instead, SU stalled, sputtered and got smacked around.
If things are to be different on Thursday against Mississippi Valley State, a crucial home opener that could give the Jaguars a leg up in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, the receivers will have to do more receiving.
“I thought it was a lack of concentration — guys going in there and not finishing what they started,” receivers coach Jorge Baez said. “They weren’t in there with the mentality of having a job to do, and they were just not focused.”
The biggest play came from backup tight end Bradley Coleman, who snagged a pass from Joseph over a defensive back and ran down to the 1-yard line for a 62-yard gain that set up a touchdown. Hawkins was the most consistent performer with 80 yards and a touchdown on six grabs, and Doss rebounded from his drop for 35 yards and a touchdown on five catches. Berry finished with 43 yards on four receptions, and Allen netted 12 yards on two catches.
But all in all, those drops were the moments that stood out the most, an ugly start for a group that’s supposed to be the strongest on the team.
To rectify that, Baez has had to take a more hard-line approach. Drop a ball in practice, you’re off the field. And come Thursday, he only plans to play the guys who held onto the ball during the week.
“I told them that I was going to hold them accountable this game,” Baez said. “If they drop a ball, there’s a price to pay. There’s consequences for every action, and they’re going to pay the price.”