Only two weeks removed from a home game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff with a share of first place in the Southwestern Athletic Conference West Division on the line, the Southern football team will face East Division co-leader Alabama A&M at 1 p.m. Saturday in Normal, Ala., having been mathematically eliminated from the league title chase.
But interim coach Dawson Odums said he isn’t concerned that the Jaguars have lost interest or incentive.
Odums pointed to his team’s play in the third quarter of a 49-29 loss to Prairie View last weekend as proof that the Jaguars still have plenty of fight.
“If there was any sign of the team letting down,” Odums said Tuesday at his weekly media luncheon, “I think you probably would have seen it then.”
Prairie View had connected on a punch-to-the-gut Hail Mary to end the first half, roaring into the locker room with a 21-10 lead. Instead of allowing the Panthers to steal its will, Southern scored three third-quarter touchdowns to take a 29-28 lead and send the Shreveport Classic to the fourth quarter as anyone’s game.
That’s where Prairie View regained control, rolling up 242 yards of offense over the final 15 minutes to make the Jaguars’ efforts in the third quarter a moot point.
“It was a disappointing end to a very competitive football game,” Odums said.
Southern’s late struggles conjured memories of last year, when the Jaguars (3-5, 2-4) were outscored 79-26 during the fourth quarter and lost four of their games by a combined 13 points.
On offense, the Jaguars picked up only 1 yard and failed to convert a third down.
Odums said the issues on defense were caused in large part to missed tackles that helped keep Prairie View drives alive.
“I really do think we’ve got a good football team,” Odums said. “We’ve just got to find a way to win some of those games we’re giving away.”
Southern enters the final stretch of the season having lost two straight and three of its past four, squashing the momentum Odums built while winning three of his first four games after Stump Mitchell’s dismissal.
Odums will look to get things back on track against an Alabama A&M team that’s hardly hurting for motivation.
A&M won the East last year, but one of its lowest moments came in a 21-6 loss at Southern.
The Bulldogs, after a 6-0 start, have opened the door for Alabama State and Jackson State in this year’s East chase thanks to back-to-back losses. ASU grabbed a share of the division lead by beating A&M (6-2, 5-2) last weekend. JSU sits a half-game back in the standings but can complete a season sweep of the Tigers and Bulldogs by beating A&M later this month.
Southern’s incentives include kick-starting a strong finish, avoiding a third straight losing season, and perhaps helping Odums land the permanent position as Mitchell’s replacement.
There may not be a conference title on the line anymore. But Odums expects the Jaguars to play with great effort and intensity all the same.
“I think that comes from their leader — from me,” he said. “I don’t dwell on losses. I believe you have 60 minutes to decide if you’re going to win or lose a football game. After that, you have to move on to the next one.”