Despite allowing 440 yards, the Southern defense played perhaps its best game this season Saturday in a 29-21 win at Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Pine Bluff was led offensively by the preseason Southwestern Athletic Conference offensive player of the year, junior quarterback Benjamin Anderson, who passed for 266 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another 99 yards.
Anderson, who had 371 total yards last season in UAPB’s 50-21 win over the Jaguars, ranks second in the SWAC in total yards per game (292.4).
“Our goal heading into the game was to keep (Anderson) from running the football,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said. “When you watch Anderson on film, he is just as deadly with his feet that he is with his arm. We tried to control him and keep him in the pocket. And for the most part, we did a good of doing that.”
In spite of Anderson’s remarkable athletic ability, the Jaguar defense managed two sacks of the Golden Lions’ signal-caller — tying the team’s second-highest output for the season.
“Not only did we do a good job of getting pressure, but we kept our rush lanes,” Odums said. “Our guys are starting to get a better understanding on how to rush the quarterback. The guys are doing a good job in film study and finding out what we can take advantage of. I’m just excited to see Daniel Brown, (Arthur) Miley and some of those other guys along the line competing hard.”
Part of that recent pass rush can be attributed to all-conference cornerback Virgil Williams’ transition from outside to the slot cornerback position in the Jaguars’ nickel package.
“Virgil’s an exciting and heady football player,” Odums said. “It’s good to have him in the slot where we can match him up on some of the better receivers we face, and he’s also a great blitzer. He understands how to maneuver his way to the quarterback, whether that’s using inside gaps and as well as coming off of the corners.”
Pairing with Williams in the defensive secondary are the Jaguars’ two safeties who have sparked the defense in creating timely turnovers.
With Southern clinging to an 8-point lead late Saturday, UAPB drove the football to the Southern 41-yard line. Then Dionte McDuffy delivered a textbook tackle on tailback Drayton Willis, jarring loose the football, which was recovered at the Jaguars’ 25 by safety Omar Cook.
“I can’t say enough about our safeties,” Odums said. “They make plays, and they seem to make them when we need them the most. They’re guys that will hit you, and they keep getting better in their coverage skills. And they’ll be a big part of our defense heading down the stretch.”
The rangy athletic ability of Cook and McDuffy allows the Jaguars defense to better defend against spread offenses.
SU gets votes in poll
Southern’s recent win streak hasn’t gone unnoticed by members of the SBN Sports Network Black College Football Poll voting panel as the Jaguars picked up 23 votes in the latest poll released Monday.