Jaguars return to work for Alabama A&M

Southern football coach Dawson Odums was pleased with the timing of this year’s off week.

The Jaguars were coming off an emotionally draining defeat at the hands of rival Jackson State two weeks ago.

“We’re coming off a much needed bye week,” Odums said. “Especially from our standpoint, we have played five really physical football teams to start the year. It gave us a chance to regroup. We were excited about having the time off. But we’re looking forward to getting ready to play this week.”

However, for the Jaguars (2-3, 2-1 in Southwestern Athletic Conference), it is time to get back to work as they prepare for Alabama A&M on Saturday.

The Bulldogs lost to Mississippi Valley State 28-9 last week, a game in which Alabama A&M committed six turnovers, five of them interceptions.

The Bulldogs have featured three quarterbacks this season, rotating junior-college transfer Jaymason Lee and freshmen quarterbacks Brandon Wells and Chris Leachman.

“I think each one of their quarterbacks share similarities,” Odums said. “Their offense doesn’t change. It doesn’t matter who is back there taking the snaps. They have a good understanding of what they want to do, and they line up and try to get it done.

“They line up and try to get it done with whoever is back there.”

Despite the problems that Valley presented defensively for the A&M quarterbacks, Odums does not for see the Jaguars defense imitating the Delta Devils’ approach.

“If you look at last week’s game, they moved the ball extremely well,” Odums said. “You don’t try to emulate what other teams do successfully, because each team has their own identity. We have a different defense than what Valley runs, and we wouldn’t make sudden changes to our defense.”

Saturday’s matchup is crucial to the Jaguars as they attempt to keep pace with Prairie View in the SWAC West.

The Jaguars fell a half game behind Prairie View after the Panthers’ 31-3 win over Grambling on Saturday.

Alabama A&M (2-4, 2-2) will present an intriguing matchup for Southern in areas where the Jaguars have struggled this season, boasting the league’s top scoring defense (21.7) and the fourth-leading rusher in tailback Barrington Scott.

Scott, who leads the team with 83.3 yards per game on the ground, is accompanied by Brand Eldemire to establish one of the better running back tandems in the conference.

“They understand what they want to do (in the running game),” Odums said “They have a collection of great running plays and they stick with them. Their backs to a great job. They both have great vision.

“They know when to make the right cuts. And they don’t need big holes. So we have to do a great job with our run fits.”

Southern quarterback Dray Joseph, who leads the conference weiht 293.8 passing yards per game, faces one of his toughest challenges to date in the A&M defense.

The Bulldogs feature the SWAC’s second-best rush and pass defense, and the No. 1 total defense.

Surprisingly, A&M has done the job without one player standing out statistically.

The Bulldogs have accumulated nine sacks from nine defenders and have no players in the SWAC’s top 10 in tackles.

“They keep it very simple on defense,” Odums said. “They just line up and play. They understand what they want to do. They’re just very sound; they don’t have many holes.

“We’re going to have to make plays offensively. We’re going to have to take advantage of whatever they give us.

“I know Jag Nation wants a football team that wins football games and that also competes for championships,” he said. “We have to get more wins, and that’s what it all comes down to. You have to win football games. You’ve got to have a product on the field that people want to come and see. I think the fans are excited about how well the players are playing and how hard they’re playing.

“It was great to see that Jackson State environment. If we can get it like that every week, Mumford (Stadium) will be a difficult place to play.”