The Southern football team travels to Houston for the second time this season, this time to take on Texas Southern.
The Jaguars are hopeful they’ll make one more trip.
Southern (4-4, 4-2 Southwestern Athletic Conference) takes on the Tigers at 8 p.m. Friday night under the lights of BBVA Compass Stadium, the new home for TSU football and the MLS’ Houston Dynamo.
Both teams are coming off emotional overtime contests. Texas Southern (2-6, 2-5) prevailed 20-17 over Grambling. The thrill-a-minute Jaguars were unable to stage another come-from-behind victory, falling to Alcorn State 44-38 at homecoming.
The Tigers enter Saturday ranked in the bottom half of every major statistical category in the SWAC. Yet Texas Southern will present a challenge because of the defense’s ability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks; one of the conference’s best punters; and quarterback Homer Causey, the kind of dual-threat quarterback that’s given the Jaguar defense trouble this season.
The Tigers rank sixth in the conference in defending the pass, allowing 215.4 yards per contest. But they rank third in passing defense efficiency.
Defensive end Amir Bloom leads the SWAC with seven sacks and is second in the conference in tackles for loss with 131/2.
“Amir (Bloom) is a special young man,” said Texas Southern coach Darrell Asberry, a Southern Lab graduate and former Jackson State quarterback.
“(He has a) 4.0 grade-point average in the classroom. He’s picked up about 20 pounds during the offseason. He’s what every coach would love to have in a program. He understands the defense, and uses his hands extremely well.”
Bloom, a 6-foot-5 250 pound redshirt sophomore out of Northwestern High School in Miami, has racked up six sacks in the Tigers’ last three contests.
“We usually leave him at one spot,” Asberry said. “But we’re putting some stuff in this week that will allow us to bounce him around a little bit. We’ll stand him up this week. He’s just a tremendous athlete, and we’re just happy to have an athlete like him that we can use in different situations.”
Bloom is usually allowed to pin his ears back and rush the passer after sophomore punter Corey Carter gets off one of his SWAC-leading punts (he’s averaging 44.1 yards per attempt).
“Right now, our thought process (as a team) is that we want to pin (the opposition deep in their own territory) and play field position,” Asberry said. “Then use our defense to create us a short field on offense. A lot of teams don’t have a punter that can pin teams deep. Corey is one of those guys in that he’s very good at angle kicks, left and right.”
Texas Southern then turns the offense over to Causey, a third-year sophomore.
Asberry said when Causey reaches his physical peak, he’ll be one of the better quarterbacks in the conference.
“We still haven’t seen the best of Causey,” Asberry said. “This kid is going to be something special for this conference. He’s finally getting settled in the pocket. He’s getting to his drop (in the pocket) earlier than what he was getting to his spot. He’s getting back deep; he’s reading the coverage. He just has so much poise, and (is) just so much more comfortable back there now.”
Asberry conceded, however, that his team won’t exactly have an easy time Friday night.
“(Southern) has some guys that will probably play on Sundays,” Asberry said. “They’ll mix up their fronts defensively. You always have to figure out where the pressure is coming from. ...
“Their skill guys are very good. They can run kickoffs back, they can run punts back. That’s where our front needs to step up and get pressure on the quarterback and get him down to the ground.”
Although Texas Southern is on somewhat of a roll of late, winning two of their last three contests, Asberry says his team is still in the process of developing a winning mindset — something he said the Jaguars have already obtained.
“Southern is a team that can score a lot of points,” he said. “They understand how to win, and right now our team is learning how to win.”