How much more abuse can Texas Southern take?
The NCAA nearly gave the Tigers’ football and men’s basketball team the “death penalty” Tuesday and banned the football team from postseason play in 2013 and 2014. The football team is already ineligible for postseason play this year because of failing to meet APR requirements.
The same day, TSU President John M. Rudley announced that the university suspended, took scholarships and permanently booted 10 members of its Ocean of Soul marching band involved in hazing.
Then came Saturday’s game at Southern (3-3, 2-2 Southwestern Athletic Conference), where turnovers, inopportune penalties and a stingy Jaguars defense pummeled Texas Southern (1-6, 1-4) in a 34-7 win.
“It seems every time every time we crossed the 50, a flag would come out,” first-year TSU coach Darrell Asberry said after the game. “Our attitude was we had to beat Southern, the fans, the officials and everybody coming down here on the Bluff. We know it’s tough down here.”
Southern’s defense, ranked third in the SWAC and tied for 21st in total defense, battered quarterbacks Rudolph Johnson and Justice Jones constantly. The Jaguars sacked Jones, a freshman from Patterson, four times and Johnson, a redshirt sophomore from San Diego, three times. Texas Southern entered the game allowing the most sacks (17) among SWAC teams.
Those sacks totaled 53 of the Tigers’ 54 lost rushing yards, bringing the SWAC’s second-worst rushing offense’s total output to 57 total rushing yards.
“We have two young quarterbacks,” Asberry said. “They’ve taken their bumps and their bruises. They’re doing great jobs. They’re doing some great things. We just need to make sure we get rid of that football a little bit quicker.”
TSU, also the conference’s worst at stopping the run, allowed the SWAC’s worst rushing offense to gain 106 total yards on the ground, including a 30-yard touchdown run by Terence Clayton Jr. in the first quarter and a 3-yard scoring run by backup quarterback J.P. Douglas.
Texas Southern also committed 13 penalties for 128 yards, some of those negating huge momentum swings for the Tigers. One of those penalties negated a 15-yard Kendall Denson run to the Southern 33-yard line with 2:06 left in the first half, and D’Andre Woodland’s interception of Johnson three plays later helped set up Southern’s third score of the night.
TSU turned the ball over twice, and the Johnson interception and Jones’ sack-fumble in the third quarter each turned into points for Southern.
“Southern has a good football team,” Asberry said. “Coach (Dawson) Odums does a great job with his guys, and he’s done a great job with his guys. We held the ball maybe one or two times a bit too long. Sometimes we just had a breakdown. That’s what film’s about. We’ve got to go back and watch the film and make corrections.”
Texas Southern has dealt with adversity all season, including losing quarterbacks Riko Smalls and Dantavious Park in the second game of the season against North Texas. However, there was more loss for the Texas Southern team to bear.
“One of our player’s brother … he passed away and we buried him today,” Asberry said. “One young man woke up this morning, and learned his father died today. A lot of things have happened with this football team.
“These young men have faced a lot of adversity. They’ve been resilient. It may not show in the win column, but they’ve been through a lot. They have not quit, and I’m proud of these young men.”
According to media reports, other NCAA penalties against Texas Southern include five years of probation, scholarship limitations in football and basketball, and vacating all team records from 2006-10 in all sports, as well as the 2010-11 records for football and women’s soccer. That includes the Tigers vacating its first SWAC football championship since 1968.
Despite the NCAA penalties, the on-field penalties and turnovers, Asberry and the Tigers are looking for a silver lining. The Tigers’ two-deep is filled with freshmen and sophomores, players Asberry said he feels can help turn things around at TSU.
“This is a year for us right now that we’re getting things are not quite going our way,” he said. “It won’t be like this forever. I don’t think that they’re a 1-6 football team.”