Despite a lopsided loss to New Mexico, Southern followed its quarterback formula pretty closely.
Dray Joseph was accurate, J.P. Douglas was solid in relief, and the Jaguars were able to build a little confidence in the passing game.
Joseph completed 63 percent of his passes (12 of 19) for 163 yards and a touchdown, which would have ranked among his best performances from last season and well above his 2011 completion percentage of 53.
And as SU coach Stump Mitchell was quick to point out, if Southern’s receivers hadn’t dropped three very catchable balls, that percentage would have jumped to 79.
“That was a huge game, and Dray was ready to play,” Mitchell said. “I thought he put the ball on the money for the most part, and he was ready to play. He was excited and he was moving the team, but unfortunately, we dropped some balls on him.”
That “for the most part” line comes from the two passes that marred an otherwise good day.
But Joseph’s two interceptions weren’t poorly thrown, either. The first came on a bad decision, when Joseph tried to squeeze the ball between two defenders and it was tipped and picked off. On the second, Mitchell said Joseph threw to the right spot, but the intended receiver let a defensive back get inside position and into the passing lane.
When Joseph suffered cramps in the third quarter, Douglas came in and didn’t miss a beat. Completing 8 of 15 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown, he was less accurate but also limited mistakes, and he led a 13-play, 75-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter.
That was exactly what Mitchell hoped to see from Douglas, whom the team will lean on for similar efforts when he’s needed.
“He had a little more energy for the game than he has had at any practices, so that was exciting to see,” Mitchell said.
The signs of an effective passing attack was one of few bright spots on the day for Southern, and the team will be hoping for a better output next Thursday against Mississippi Valley State.
Last year, the Delta Devils surrendered the highest completion percentage (61.4) and yards per attempt (7.6) of any defense in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
Rough day for Allen
Tight end Rashaun Allen’s return to the playing field did not go as hoped.
Referred to as “Big Tight” for his imposing 6-foot-4, 253-pound frame, Allen was expected to give the offense a big boost after missing all of last season, but the New Mexico game was a rocky start.
Facing a third-and-7 on SU’s second drive, Joseph threw to Allen in the middle of the field, where a catch would have moved the chains and pushed the Jaguars deeper into UNM territory. Instead, Allen dropped it, forcing a punt. He dropped another pass on second-and-11 two drives later.
Though he made an impressive 11-yard grab on a fourth-quarter touchdown drive, those easy drops were the lasting image of Allen’s debut, which Mitchell called “poor.”
Worst of all for Southern, the drops kept Allen from showing off the strongest part of his game: running after the catch.
“I don’t even know if they would have tackled him, because the middle was wide open, and he’s fast once he gets the ball in his hands,” Mitchell said. “And he’s powerful. I’ve seen what he’s done to some (defensive backs) that are a lot smaller. He’s stiff-armed them and gone the distance.”
Allen did just that in a 2010 game against Valley, scoring on a 73-yard play.
Meanwhile, backup tight end Bradley Coleman, albeit less of a physical presence at 6-5, 214, made the most of his one opportunity with a 62-yard catch-and-run that set up the team’s first TD.
Sunday night lights
In preparation for next Thursday’s home opener against Valley, Southern will hold an evening practice inside A.W. Mumford Stadium at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, the first time they’ve done so this year.
“We’ll get a chance to be under the lights before Thursday night,” Mitchell said.