Fixing defensive problems high priority for Southern

Southern may have saved its season last Saturday night.

The Jaguars were trailing Prairie View by 22 points in the third quarter at A.W. Mumford Stadium when sophomore Willie Quinn returned a kickoff deep into Panthers territory, igniting a ferocious comeback that ended in a 62-59 two-overtime victory.

Lost in the pandemonium of the epic rally, however, was the Jaguars’ continued inability to stop the run.

Southern had given up 564 combined rushing yards in its first two contests against Houston and Northwestern State. Prairie View shredded the Jaguars for another 422 yards.

Southern ranks 108th out of 114 teams in the Football Championship Subdivision against the run, yielding 327.7 yards per game.

“We’re looking for answers for these spread offenses,” said Odums, whose team faces Mississippi Valley State in Itta Bena, Miss., at 4 p.m. Saturday. “When you’re playing against elusive running backs and wide receivers, if the first guy doesn’t slow him up and make the tackle when they get there, there’s going to be some big plays.”

Odums expressed particular concern with the number of yards after first contact his defense gave up.

“Three hundred fifty yards of (Prairie View’s) offense probably came after our first guy missed the tackle,” Odums said. “So it’s not that players aren’t in position. They just have to finish and have to make those tackles.

“We’re working on our pursuit. We’re working on our angles to the football and we’re working on our tackling. You can’t miss tackles when you’re one-on-one and there’s nobody else there to help you.”

Odums — who began at Southern as a defensive line coach and defensive coordinator under Stump Mitchell — said it’s especially frustrating for a defensive-minded coach to watch his team struggle against the run.

“They can throw the football all over the field,” Odums said. “But when a team can just run the football on you, you have to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to stop. As we get the defense better, I really think we’ll get to see what kind of football we have.”

Joseph honored

Senior quarterback Dray Joseph was named Southwestern Athletic Conference offensive player of the week after throwing for 480 yards and six touchdowns in the Jaguars’ 62-59 victory over Prairie View.

Joseph leads the SWAC in passing with 922 yards this season. He has thrown nine touchdowns and one interception.

Injury update

Southern lost two defensive stars to injury in the game against Prairie View: All-SWAC cornerback Virgil Williams and junior outside linebacker Daniel Brown.

Williams left Saturday’s game after returning a punt and taking a blow to his rib cage. Odums said he expects Williams to be ready to play Saturday at Valley.

Odums is less certain with Brown, who injured his sternum.

“He’s going to be a slow-go this week, and we probably won’t know about his status until Thursday.”

Cleared to play

Dionte McDuffy made his Southern debut Saturday after sitting out the first two games because of academic issues.

“(Getting McDuffy back) should help us in the running game,” Odums said. “You could tell he was a little rusty and that he hadn’t been out there in a while.”

McDuffy, who transferred from South Alabama, finished Saturday’s game with six tackles in limited action.

Southern also welcomed freshman linebacker Jarkeith Ruffin back to practice Monday after he was academically cleared.

“We are going to get him ready to go,” Odums said. “He’s probably going to play some inside linebacker for us. He’s a true (middle) linebacker, and he doesn’t mind going downhill and tackling people.”

Southern continues to await a ruling from the NCAA on junior wide receiver Bradley Brown and sophomore offensive lineman Corey White.

Valley bus trip

The Blue & Gold Club is inviting all fans to Valley on Saturday. The trip costs $110 and includes tickets to the game, refreshments and tailgate food. For more information, contact Craig Pierre at (225) 324-7234 or Robert Square at (225) 931-4052.

Quarterback Club meets

The Southern University Metro Area Quarterback Club will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the maintenance building at Southern Univeristy-New Orleans. All alumni and supporters invited.