Will the real Southern defense please stand up?
The Jaguars defense had been much maligned entering last week’s contest against Mississippi Valley State.
Southern had given up 58 points and 648 total yards per game and was ranked 108 out of 114 schools, giving up 325 yards on the ground per game.
“I just think as a defensive coordinator, stopping the run is the No. 1 goal every week,” coach Dawson Odums said. “If you can control the running game, you’ve got a chance in football. To make a team one-dimensional and not allow them to be dual threat, to give you a chance to win.”
And the Jaguars defense did just that, yielding a mere 58 rushing yards to the Delta Devils.
Southern was on the verge of shutting out Valley for the fifth time in school history until late in the fourth quarter when Southern punt returner Willie Quinn muffed a punt at his own 36-yard line, giving the Delta Devils great field position.
Valley took advantage of the miscue and punched it into the end zone with just under a minute to play.
“We tackled better today,” Odums said after his team’s 17-7 victory over Valley. “We’re starting to get guys on the field that we thought we were going to have at the beginning of the year. And now you’re starting to see how they can play together.”
The Jaguars defense has not had its full projected starting 11 together at one time this season.
Defensive end Donald Phillips has been out since an injury to his leg in the last scrimmage of fall camp. Free safety Dionte McDuffy missed the first two games of the season because of academic clearance issues. Linebacker Anthony Balancier was suspended for the Prairie View game.
Defensive back Jonathan Mack missed the past two games because of an injury.
And All-Southwestern Athletic Conference defensive back Virgil Williams missed Saturday’s game because of a rib injury.
After failing to force a turnover in its first two games, the Southern defense has forced four takeaways in the past two weeks.
“For us, it’s just about getting the right guys in the right place,” Odums said. “The difference (last week) was that the guys made plays. They were in position, and they made the play. It’s effort, picking up our effort. We know each week that that’s a daunting task, and you have to do that every week.”
“You’ve got to win the effort part of the football game.”
Southern will enter the Jackson State game as healthy as it has been all season.
Williams and junior wide receiver Sam Altman will both be back in action after missing last week’s game because of injuries to the rib area.
Southern hopes to have Mack healthy Saturday.
Mack has been out of action since injuring his foot in the first quarter of the Northwestern State game.
However, the Jaguars will still be without Phillips and fullback Brian McCain, who are both out with lower leg injuries.
Both players could return after the Jaguars’ off week when they play host to Alabama A&M on Oct. 12.
After hosting 58 recruits two weekends ago, Southern will entertain up to 75 high school prospects for Saturday’s game against Jackson State.
Prospects will come to A.W. Mumford Stadium from Houston, Mississippi, Baton Rouge and surrounding areas.
“I think this is why top recruits go to both schools,” Odums said. “This game is a reason why (a recruit) would choose a Southern or a Jackson State.
“That’s a selling point for both institutions. (Coaches) definitely talk about the big games that (recruits) will have a chance to play in.”
Southern is still awaiting a ruling on the eligibility of sophomore offensive lineman Corey White and junior receiver Bradley Brown.
Tickets for Saturday’s Jackson State-Southern matchup at A.W. Mumford Stadium are available at www.gojagsports.com and at (225) 771-3171.
General admission seats start at $15; reserved seats are $20-$40.
The ticket office is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday and at noon Saturday. Will-call is available Saturday.
Traffic and parking
Free parking will be available Saturday. Fans are asked to enter through the Mills Street entrance on the north side of the Southern campus.
Additionally, general admission parking will be available for $10. Fans are asked to enter through Swan Avenue and will be directed to a lot adjacent to Southern Lab High School.
Reserve parking pass holders are encouraged to enter via the Swan and Harding entrances.
For those traveling by bus, parking will be available for $200 on game day. RV spots will also be available for $70 each. Seven CATS shuttle buses will be available on campus Saturday to transfer to and from the stadium for those with special needs or those parked in free parking areas.