Odums seeks to reduce distractions
As it turns out, Saturday’s 34-7 win against Texas Southern truly was a homecoming for the Southern Jaguars.
They spent the previous night out of town.
On Friday evening, while their friends and fans enjoyed the festivities in Baton Rouge, SU’s coaches and players were about an hour away, staying at a hotel in Lafayette.
As linebacker Anthony Balancier put it, that left them with one thing to do.
“Get sleep,” he said.
And that was the point.
With the host of distractions included in a packed calendar of events during homecoming weekend, interim coach Dawson Odums felt it best to make an escape.
“It’s just a way to get them isolated and have our meetings and really just jell together, have our walk-through and cut down on distractions,” he said. “Being (on campus) on a Friday night during homecoming, I could imagine they would have never gotten any sleep in the dorm.”
The strategy clearly paid off in Southern’s most complete performance of the season, and Odums said he plans to stick with it for the remaining two home games to keep his players focused. His next chance will come this Friday, before the Jaguars (3-3, 2-2 Southwestern Athletic Conference) take on Arkansas-Pine Bluff (4-2, 3-1) in a game where a win would give them first place in the SWAC West.
He’ll be hoping that — along with a solid week of practice — putting his players in that secluded environment again will help avoid the kind of letdown they experienced the last time they were riding this high.
Earlier this month, SU saw its two-game win streak snapped at Alcorn State, a loss that Balancier said came from letting its guard down.
“We have to stay focused,” Balancier said. “The Alcorn game, we played down to their level, and we’re not trying to do that anymore.
“I just thank the coaches. They brought us to Lafayette to get our minds right. That was a big reason why we had the success we had (against Texas Southern). They isolated us from everything that was going on, and I hope they do the same thing next week, because we need it. We really do need it.”
One thing they shouldn’t need is motivation.
With the division lead up for grabs and a big home crowd expected, Odums won’t have much trouble finding ways to get the Jaguars fired up.
This week brings a major opportunity, and — whether a trip to Lafayette is involved or not — if SU can keep focused and duplicate Saturday’s performance, it could mean a big step toward its first division title since 2004.
“Homecoming was easy to get up for, and I think Pine Bluff will be easy to get up for because we know first place in the West is on the line,” Odums said. “You want to be in the hunt this time of year. You play in October so they can remember you in December.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to continue this momentum. We’ve had this momentum before and we didn’t play very well, but it’s good to have it at home.”