In the past two games, Southern’s scoring breakdown looks like this: three touchdowns for the offense, two for defense and special teams.
And yet, while the offense acknowledges it has to start putting together some kind of consistency, the other units feel a responsibility to score even more.
“We expect the offense to score, just like they expect us to stop them,” said cornerback Virgil Williams, whose punt return led to a touchdown against Alcorn State. “But we also expect the defense to score points even if our offense can’t get it going.”
That mindset trickles down from interim head coach Dawson Odums, who also serves as the defensive coordinator. For Odums, Southern’s point total is a reflection of all three units, not just the offense.
“I really believe that special teams, offense and defense, we have to contribute to putting points on the board,” he said. “We can’t just say that it’s the offense’s responsibility. It’s different phases of the game, and different situations present themselves where we can be successful with special teams and defense — we can all put points on the board.”
Still, there is no doubt that SU’s offense is struggling.
The Jaguars haven’t been able to sustain drives or move down the field with any regularity, ranking eighth in the conference for red-zone trips (14) and red-zone scoring (50 percent).
But the defense views that as a lack of opportunities — a problem it could fix by improving on third downs. While Southern leads the conference in fewest first downs allowed (17.6 per game), it ranks sixth in opponent third-down conversions by allowing a success rate of 37.3 percent.
“The offense would be on the field a lot more if we got off the field on third downs,” linebacker Corry Roy said.
On Saturday, Alcorn converted on six of 15 third-down attempts while SU was 4-for-12, which helped lead to a vast disparity in total offensive plays. While the two teams were nearly even in yards per play, the Braves ran 74 to the Jaguars’ 46.
“We have to try to get off the field more,” Odums said. “We played a lot of plays, and we have to get off the field. I think we played 74 snaps or so, and that’s too many for us as a defense. We like for that number to be 60 or less, so we have to do a better job on first and second down, and then do a great job on third down. That just comes with execution and tackling.”
Jones, Martin back
Receiver Mike Jones and safety Jamaal Martin, two players who suffered potential season-ending knee injuries, are back on the practice field and making progress to recovery.
Odums said the key was that neither player required surgery, allowing them to make a return this season.
“We’re trying to work them back,” he said. “Right now, Mike Jones is moving a little better than Martin. Those guys are questionable. Whatever we can get from them, we’re going to try to get it, but we don’t want to rush these guys back. If they’re not 100 percent, they probably won’t be playing.”
Martin, who suffered a partial tear of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee, said his injury is pain-free but still tender. His recovery would be a boost at a position that has also seen injuries to Mychal Bell (ankle) and D’Mekus Cook (shoulder).