Southern’s old nemesis has reared its ugly head again.
It took eight games for the Jaguars to suffer the kind of fourth-quarter collapse that plagued them last season, but when it happened, it was a big one.
Hidden in the lopsided final score of Saturday’s 49-29 loss to Prairie View is the fact that SU actually led after three quarters. Trailing 21-10 at the half, Southern staged a methodical comeback to take the lead twice and headed into the final quarter with momentum and an excellent chance to win.
At that point, the Jaguars were ahead 29-28 and held a 406 to 403 edge in yardage. But then the wheels fell off.
They gained just 1 yard and scored no points, while the Panthers scored three touchdowns and piled up 242 yards.
“Shoot, once the fourth quarter hit, we weren’t able to do anything offensively or defensively to slow them down,” interim coach Dawson Odums said. “We couldn’t stop them, and we couldn’t move the ball.”
That isn’t an entirely new feeling for Southern, which was outscored 79-26 in the fourth quarter last season — its most points allowed and least scored of any period.
Those struggles certainly caught the attention of players and coaches, making “finishing” a major theme in the offseason, so much so that the conditioning program was tailored to place the most difficult tasks at the end.
While the results weren’t perfect — SU blew late chances in a 6-0 loss to Mississippi State and allowed 21 fourth-quarter points in a 28-21 win over Jackson State — they were much better.
Where last year’s margin was a blowout, Southern entered last weekend trailing opponents only 47-39 in the fourth, even staging a late comeback win against Florida A&M. The worst fourth quarter had been against Alcorn State, when the Jaguars lost after surrendering a touchdown in the final minute.
That is, until Saturday, when Prairie View reopened the wounds and brought fourth-quarter execution right back to the forefront.
“I think we had been a lot better,” Odums said. “It was a big letdown.”
Odums pointed to two areas as the biggest culprits: third downs and tackling.
On offense, Southern went 0-for-4 on third downs in the fourth quarter, punting four times.
That was uncharacteristic of the Jaguars, who came in doing their best on third downs during the fourth quarter, a period where they were operating at a 44 percent clip.
To make matters worse, once they punted the football away, they couldn’t tackle the Panthers.
Prairie View enjoyed its offensive explosion via touchdown drives of 67, 81 and 72 yards, gaining 124 yards through the air and 118 on the ground.
That’s enough to drive Odums, who’s also the defensive coordinator, crazy.
“It’s a big concern,” he said. “We were doing a pretty good job, and we just have to find a way to execute better in the fourth quarter
“ The game usually comes down to the fourth quarter, and we have to make more plays.”
That task will be tough Saturday at Alabama A&M, as the Bulldogs are outscoring opponents 38-16 in the final period.
The Sixth Man Club is sponsoring bus trips for the Jaguars’ final two road games of the season.
For the Alabama A&M game, the cost — in addition to a game ticket and the bus ride — is $250 for a single hotel room, $415 for a couple, $580 for a triple and $745 for a quad. The bus ride is $100.
The bus departs at 8 p.m. Friday from 4523 Plank Road.
For the Bayou Classic, the bus ride only is $50, and the bus departs at 8 a.m. from 4523 Plank Road.
For more information, contact Anna Jones at (225) 387-1982 or (225) 907-7212; Freddie Green Sr. at (225) 388-9403 or (225) 572-3060; or Elijah Wilkinson Jr. at (225) 355-9249.