“The last time we played (in Mumford Stadium), we tasted defeat. If that’s not enough motivation to defend your home field, then I don’t know what more motivation you need.” dawson odums, Southern coach
When the Southern football team hopped on a bus in late August and headed for Houston, to take on the University of Houston for the season opener, the plan was for it to be the first of two trips to Reliant Stadium this season.
A victory Saturday could go a long way toward that ultimate goal of ending up back in the Bayou City for the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship Game on Dec. 7.
Southern (2-3, 2-1 SWAC) sits a half game out of the top spot of the Western Division standings, trailing Prairie View.
But the Jaguars’ hold the tie-breaker over the Panthers because of their 62-59 overtime victory Sep. 14.
The other three teams in the division (Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Texas Southern, and Grambling) have yet to win a game, going a combined 0-16.
Still, Southern’s schedule ahead does pose some difficult challenges.
The Jaguars have two challenging road games in November, one at Texas Southern which will be a short week as the game is scheduled on a Friday night, and Alabama State. which features former Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell.
Despite the season only being at the midway point, it is evident the Western Division of the SWAC will come down to a two-team race: Southern and Prairie View A&M.
Prairie View still faces the top three teams from the Eastern Division (Alabama State, Alcorn State, and Jackson State), while Southern plays only two teams with winning records remaining on their SWAC schedule.
For the Jaguars players and coaches, it’s a topic not often discussed within the confines of the team.
“We don’t talk about that much,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said of winning the West. “What we try to talk about is that we’re in a great position, and you’re only in that position, because of what you have done up to this point, and to remember that has no effect going forward.”
Saturday’s game marks the first of five consecutive conference games followed by a home nonconference matchup against Clark Atlanta, where Odums was an assistant and interim head coach for three seasons.
The Jaguars will then have their second open date before the traditional Thanksgiving weekend matchup with Grambling in the Bayou Classic.
Southern has not represented the Western Division of the SWAC in the conference championship game since 2004 and has not won a conference title since 2003, when it was also the black college national champion.
“The motivation for us is that everything that we want to accomplish as a football team is still right in front of us,” Odums said.
Despite losing to Jackson State after winning two conference games in a row, Odums said his team’s motivation for this week is to protect its home turf — something it failed to do two weeks ago.
“The last time we played (in Mumford Stadium), we tasted defeat,” he said. “If that’s not enough motivation to defend your home field, then I don’t know what more motivation you need as an athlete.”
However, for the Jaguars the focus remains on the task at hand, focusing solely on their next opponent.
Despite the unimpressive record for Alabama A&M (2-4, 2-2) and its recent shocking defeat at the hands of Mississippi Valley State, Odums maintains that Saturday will present a challenge for his team that they will have to overcome.
“Every day you have to clear your mind, you have to understand that this is a new week,” Odums said. “This new week presents new challenges. And what’s the challenge this week? It’s Alabama A&M. If you want to continue to be in this unique position, then you have to win football games. And that’s the bottom line.
“All we talk about is being a champion on and off the field, and if you do the little things, then the big things will take care of themselves.”