A few weeks ago, it would have been impossible to imagine that complacency would ever be a concern for Southern. But coming off of two bad losses and two big rivalry wins, the Jaguars are just trying to make sure they don’t get too comfortable.
After polishing off the school’s first back-to-back wins since 2009, interim coach Dawson Odums said he’s focused on making sure SU (2-2, 1-1 Southwestern Athletic Conference) doesn’t underestimate its next opponent, Alcorn State (1-4, 1-2 SWAC).
For the first time since a shocking 6-0 loss to Mississippi Valley State on Sept. 13, Southern will head into a game playing the role of favorite.
“We were meeting (Monday) morning, and I was just telling the guys that we’re in some unfamiliar territory,” Odums said. “We have to get our guys fired up and ready to go this week. That game we played last week is behind us.”
To cement that mindset, Odums said he’ll look for some “pretty creative” ways to motivate his players.
After all, there’s no long-standing rivalry, no emotional loss of a head coach, and no trip to a football palace like the Georgia Dome to keep them focused this week, just a drive to tiny Lorman, Miss., to face a Braves squad that’s coming off a 54-14 loss against Alabama State.
But if there’s one way to make sure the Jaguars don’t slip up, it’s a reminder of just how bad they felt after that loss to MVSU, when they were 0-2 and watching coach Stump Mitchell lose his job.
“The good thing about it is that we tasted defeat. We understand what that tastes like, and we don’t want to taste it anymore,” Odums said.
Odums had his team adhere to the usual 24-hour celebration rule and move past Saturday’s 21-14 win over Florida A&M to focus on Alcorn State, which wants to forget last weekend for different reasons.
In the loss to Alabama State, the Braves allowed touchdowns on drives of 75 and 63 yards, and the rest of the damage came on just 29 yards of offense.
Alcorn gave away points in a host of ways that coach Jay Hopson described as “a comedy of errors.” There was a fumble recovery, interception return and blocked punt that all went for touchdowns, in addition to two botched punts and a fumble that set up short scoring drives.
A similar sloppy outing could certainly spell doom for Southern, as it did for Grambling in a surprising 22-21 loss to Alcorn in the season opener.
But Odums is confident that won’t happen, as recent wins have brought benefits beyond the conference standings, where Southern still controls its own destiny in the SWAC title race.
Odums said he feels the Jaguars are a different team now, and the momentum they’ve gained can continue to build during the week.
“Winning changes people,” Odums said. “The more you win, the more exciting it is to come to practice, and the more exciting it is to get prepared. So we’re just riding the momentum. You ask them, ‘Do you want to feel like you felt Thursday against Valley? Or do you want to feel like you felt against Jackson and now FAMU?’
“What’s the difference in the two? Getting yourself prepared. ... We’re just preaching that, and these young men are responding greatly.”