ATLANTA — With interim coach Dawson Odums in place, it still remains to be seen who will lead the Southern football program on a permanent basis.
But after the Jaguars upset Florida A&M 21-14 in the Atlanta Classic on Saturday, Rattlers coach Joe Taylor was ready to cast his vote.
“I really feel that if coach Odums is not given the job tonight, something’s wrong over there in Baton Rouge,” Taylor said. “He certainly had his team ready. They played at a high level, and they made the plays to win the ballgame. It certainly was a big win. I just can’t say enough about him and what he has done in such a short time with that program.”
What Odums has done is lead the team to its first back-to-back wins since 2009, beating two rivals away from home with wins over Jackson State and now Florida A&M. And with some momentum heading into the remaining Southwestern Athletic Conference schedule, there’s still a chance the Jaguars could get into the conference title hunt as well.
The good news for Odums is that the more he wins, the closer he is to locking down the job full time. Athletic director William Broussard — who made the decision to dismiss then-coach Stump Mitchell and promote Odums on Sept. 14 — said after Saturday’s game that Odums’ interim tenure is essentially one long job audition that gives him an advantage over other possible candidates.
And while there’s still a long way to go, it’s hard to imagine a better start.
“I’m thrilled with his performance right now,” Broussard said.
Hawkins not a factor
Despite optimism for the past two weeks that receiver Charles Hawkins would recover from a hamstring injury and assume his position as a go-to playmaker, he wasn’t a factor in the Jaguars’ offense.
Hawkins had missed the past two games with the injury and was limited in practices last week, but he was cleared to play by the team’s medical staff and went through full warm-ups with the team.
Hawkins did play sparsely, but the end result was zero catches, leaving Lee Doss (11 catches, 91 yards, touchdown) and Jordan Bilbo (one catch, 3 yards) to take over his production.
“He gave it a go,” Odums said. “I really think it was a mind thing with him, but he didn’t want to aggravate it any more, and he just didn’t feel like he was 100 percent. He didn’t push it, and we didn’t push him. We sort of let him gauge it, and obviously he decided he couldn’t play a whole lot.”
Odums added that despite Hawkins being cleared, he was comfortable letting the receiver make the call.
“I’ll tell you that all athletes know their bodies better,” he said.
Switch-up at kicker
It’s really anyone’s guess who lines up at kicker for Southern.
Freshman Greg Pittman, who began the season as the starter, was left off the travel roster for last week’s game at Jackson State for disciplinary reasons, leaving Matthew Hill atop the depth chart.
When Pittman returned this week, he seemed to have reclaimed the top spot, but Hill handled the field goal and extra-point duties against FAMU.
Hill hit all three extra-point tries, making him 7 for 7 on the year. He also trotted out for a 38-yard field goal in the second quarter, but the Jaguars opted for a fake instead that turned into an interception.
While Hill had handled kickoff duties all year, Pittman took control Saturday. He booted the first three (with a 59.7-yard average) before Hill knocked the final one 59 yards.
On the season, Pittman has hit one of two extra points and missed a 37-yard field goal.
Hill also missed his lone field-goal attempt (a 35-yarder) last week at Jackson State.
Jukebox salutes FAMU
The absence of FAMU’s band, the Marching 100, was certainly noticeable, but Southern’s Human Jukebox did its best to fill the void.
The band’s halftime performance, which was aired in its entirety by NBCSports, even included a tribute to the Rattlers’ unit, as the band members spelled out “FAMU.”
The Marching 100 is suspended through 2013 because of the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion.
Free safety Mychal Bell suffered an ankle injury during the second half and was replaced by D’Mekus Cook. … Before kickoff, SU left tackle Chris Browne and FAMU quarterback Damien Fleming received the U.S. Army Strong Award, which recognizes players for outstanding performances on and off the field.