Jaguars stick with Joseph, who rallies team to win
ATLANTA — In a 21-14 win over Florida A&M that was often a struggle offensively, Southern’s coaches showed just how confident they are in starting quarterback Dray Joseph.
After saying last week that he planned to put backup J.P. Douglas in for a series or two per game, interim coach Dawson Odums and his staff stuck with Joseph throughout Saturday’s Atlanta Classic.
A change could have been expected just after halftime, when Joseph was 9 of 15 for 88 yards and threw an interception on his first pass of the second half. At that point, Southern trailed 7-0.
“We believe in our starting quarterback,” Odums said. “We just felt like it wasn’t anything that he was doing that was preventing us from scoring. We went into halftime and made some adjustments and corrections, got some protections together, and we challenged him.”
It worked, as Joseph rebounded in a big way. He was a perfect 8 of 8 on a game-tying touchdown drive, then finished 25 of 35 for 226 yards and two touchdowns to earn the game’s MVP award.
“This is our leader,” Odums said, sitting next to Joseph at a postgame press conference. “This is our leader on offense — the leader of our team. Our guys believe in him, I believe in him, the staff believes in him, and we just think that if we keep him out there, as the game goes on, he’s going to get better.”
The vote of confidence seems to erase any doubts that a different quarterback strategy could be in line under Odums. In a win over Jackson State last week, when Joseph played well throughout, coaches brought in Douglas for a second-half series and indicated that would be the plan for every game.
Fake FG falls flat
One noticeable difference in practices since Odums took over has been more time spent on trick plays, but when Southern tried its first one on Saturday, it didn’t go as planned.
Trailing 7-0 in the final moments of the first half, the Jaguars lined up for a 38-yard field goal. But rather than take a shot with kicker Matthew Hill, SU opted for a fake where Hill went in motion and holder Lee Doss stood up for a shotgun snap.
With the intentions of a fake announced, FAMU was ready for the play. The Rattlers chased Doss around in the backfield and forced a hopeful throw toward the end zone, which was intercepted at the 6-yard line.
The risk didn’t end up costing Southern, as Florida A&M ran out the clock to end the half.
“I believe if you practice things, at some point in a game you have to run them. We just didn’t execute,” Odums said. “We’re playing to win, so they better get ready. We’re going to gamble some. Hey, what do we have to lose? Nobody’s picking us anyway, so we’re going to do the best we can with what we’ve got for as long as we can.”
Penalties still a problem
Once again, Southern won despite a whopping number of penalties. The Jaguars committed 13 for 85 yards.
The penalty party got started on the fourth play, when Kevin King was called for a block in the back on a punt return, meaning SU had to start its first drive from the 16-yard line.
Later, an illegal shift penalty negated a 16-yard pass to Thomas Jackson that would have converted a first down.
On the Jaguars’ first touchdown drive, back-to-back false starts pushed them from the 4 to the 14, and a personal foul by offensive lineman Chris Browne after the score helped set the Rattlers’ next drive up at midfield.
Southern was able to overcome those miscues, and also got some help from FAMU. The Rattlers were penalized 11 times for 76 yards, with one of the worst coming on a Southern punt in the first quarter, when Eddie Rocker ran into SU’s Chase Tuten and extended the drive.