Jaguars salvage positives in loss

The Southern football team came into Saturday’s contest against Jackson State seeking to prove itself.

To prove that the first two games of the season, in which the Jaguars were outscored 107-27, were an aberration. To prove that Southern could be one of the elite teams in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. To prove to the Jaguar Nation that the glory days of Southern football were on the horizon.

With the Jaguars trailing 19-14, they possessed the ball on the Tigers 7-yard line and were facing a fourth-and-3 with the game on the line. With just over a minute remaining and the play clock winding down, Southern quarterback Dray Joseph rushed to get the snap off, faked a handoff to running back Darius Coleman, and then was smashed to the ground by Tigers defenders just as he hurled a pass to tight end Bradley Coleman. Coleman, who was standing alone in the right corner of the end zone, made a diving attempt for the pass, but the ball fell to the ground between his outstretched arms.

Incomplete pass. Game over.

Despite coming up inches short of knocking off Jackson State, Southern certainly proved something Saturday night: The Jaguars will be a contender in the SWAC West with a chance to play for the conference championship Dec. 7 in Houston.

“There are plenty of positives that we are going to take from the Jackson State game,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said. “We executed all the way down the field to try to win the football game. We competed extremely hard, it was a 60-minute football game.

“We had a great crowd, a great environment, but we just came up a little short. It came down to the last second, and we had a great play called; we didn’t execute, and they did.”

Odums said the Jaguars will take the same mindset after the tough defeat as they would with any other outcome.

“It’s our philosophy that you play on Saturday, and you dwell on your losses for 24-hours just like how you would celebrate your wins for 24-hours,” Odums said. “Today’s a new day. It wasn’t the last game of the season, we won’t be defined by that game. We have to move forward and move on.”

After such an emotionally draining football game, Odums said the Jaguars are pleased to have an open date on the schedule to regroup mentally and get healthy physically.

“When we come out of the (off) week, we’ve got six games in a row, so hopefully we can get all our guys healthy,” Odums said.

“You need the open date to get a chance to work on those fundamentals, get back to the basics, and to get the football team rejuvenated.”

Odums identified two key areas that his coaching staff will attempt to address.

“We’ll work on blocking and tackling,” Odums said. “I think if we can get back to doing that well, you’ll see a different football team. Offensively, we’re still trying to figure out how to get more points on the board. And defensively, we’re going to continue to work on stopping the run, which we are getting better every week at doing.

“I think if we can get better in those areas, we’ll be a better team going down the stretch.”

Odums said he believes his squad is ready to take the next step in potentially becoming a championship-caliber team.

“Of course it was a tough loss for us and it hurt,” he said. “Losses are supposed to hurt — that means they mean something.

“We know we can play with those guys. And if everything goes according to plan, who knows what will happen at the end of the season?”