Southern’s trio of wideouts clicks in defeat to Prairie View
“I believe when they come to play, they’re the best receiving corps in the conference.” DAWSON ODUMS, SU interim coach
SHREVEPORT — Coming into the season, the plan for Southern’s receivers was pretty straightforward.
Mike Berry would be the big, fast matchup nightmare. Charles Hawkins would be the speedster. And Lee Doss would be the reliable possession guy.
Paired with quarterback Dray Joseph’s strong arm, they’d form a trio that no secondary in the Southwestern Athletic Conference could cope with.
“Myself, Mike Berry and Lee Doss — we always talk about having that big game, having four or five catches and all of us scoring touchdowns,” Hawkins said.
But because of injuries, drops and offensive struggles, that hadn’t been the case for Southern through seven games. And while it certainly wouldn’t seem as though Saturday’s 49-29 loss to Prairie View went according to plan, as far as those three wideouts go, it was a huge success.
Berry, Hawkins and Doss combined for 15 catches, 220 yards and four touchdowns. Including their games last year, their previous highest totals were 15 grabs (Week 1 against New Mexico), 183 yards (Jackson State) and two touchdowns (seven times) — showing just how dangerous they can be when they’re clicking.
“I believe when they come to play, they’re the best receiving corps in the conference,” SU interim coach Dawson Odums said. “We have three or four guys over there that can really stretch the field, and you have to defend the whole field.”
That’s just what the trio forced the Panthers to do.
Hawkins looked like the playmaker SU expected before a lingering hamstring injury hampered that plan. On the Jaguars’ second play, he took a screen pass for 36 yards, and his next catch moved the offense to the PV 6-yard line to set up a field goal.
A drive later, he made the kind of play that perhaps only he can when, on third-and-9, Joseph threw high to him near the sideline.
Hawkins jumped, made the catch and came down with one foot in bounds, seemingly about to step out and end the play. Instead, he regained his balance, and despite being boxed in by a defensive back, he spun around him and sprinted ahead for a 26-yard gain.
In the third quarter, he snatched a 15-yard touchdown pass and finished with a season-high 91 yards on five catches.
Although Berry’s 52 yards on four catches was his lowest output in four games, he stuck to his role as the deep threat, beating his man for a 34-yard score that gave Southern a 29-28 lead late in the third quarter. He now has six touchdowns in the past six games.
And Doss was his usual self, with two catches going for touchdowns (23 and 24 yards), two more for first downs and another would-be first down spoiled by a questionable ball spot.
He also drew penalties for defensive holding and pass interference that moved the chains, finishing with 77 yards and two scores on six catches.
The three accounted for 69 percent of quarterback Joseph’s yardage, as he completed 24 of 37 throws for 317 yards (the second most of his career) and four touchdowns. It was the kind of day the Jaguars had been waiting for all season, and PV coach Heishma Northern wasn’t surprised to see it.
“I was telling our defensive players that I thought Southern had the best group of receivers we’re going to play against all year,” Northern said.
In the end, though, Hawkins said he would much rather have traded the big day for a win. He, Berry and Doss can’t be blamed for the loss, though. After all, their toughest opponent wasn’t the Panthers’ defense, it was the PV wideouts.
The Prairie View receiving quartet of Spencer Nelson, Deandre Cooper, Jacoby Anderson and Gabe Dunlap put up 20 catches for 286 yards and four scores, leading Northern to tack on a disclaimer to his statement.
“I’m not going to take anything away from my group of receivers, because we made plays,” Northern said.