Alabama A&M needs a bounceback performance at Southern

Alabama A&M enters Saturday’s matchup with Southern as a team that appears to be reeling.

The Bulldogs are coming off an unexpected loss to Mississippi Valley State in which the offense committed six turnovers in a 28-9 defeat. But most Southwestern Athletic Conference followers know one thing: Never count out coach Anthony Jones’ Bulldogs.

Jones is in his 11th season as coach in the Rocket City, where he has accumulated an 81-51 record and a 60-34 mark in the SWAC, including a conference title in 2006 and five division crowns. He said last week’s loss came down to his team not doing the things it was supposed to do.

“We didn’t execute last game,” he said. “We threw the ball to them. We made some poor decisions, and they took advantage of it.”

Bulldogs quarterbacks threw five interceptions last week, putting the position in flux. Alabama A&M (2-4, 2-2) has rotated the job among Brandon Wells, Chris Leachman and Jaymason Lee.

“We have no idea who is going to be the starter for Saturday,” Jones said. “We’ve been inconsistent at the quarterback position. Until one of them plays with consistency, the position will not be solidified.”

The Bulldogs have relied on a strong rushing attack and superb defense to carry the load.

“We just follow the game plan,” Jones said of the rushing attack. “If we did that throwing the ball, we’d be fine.”

When Alabama A&M runs the ball, it’s usually feeding Barrington Scott or Brandon Eldemire. Scott, who ranks fourth in the conference in rushing yards per game with 83.3, brings a hard-nosed attitude that Jones loves.

“Scott works hard, and he runs hard,” Jones said. “He follows the game plan. He does what he’s told. He’s got great vision.”

The Bulldogs are atop the conference in scoring defense and total defense. Jones said that’s just a matter of having a surplus of players being able to contribute.

“We have a lot of guys that can make plays,” he said. “I would like to see the defense get more turnovers. Other than that, we’re just playing real good football right now.”

Linebacker Robert Nelson, a senior who transferred from Tennessee in February 2012, leads the team with 48 tackles.

“He’s doing a good job of being a leader for us out there on the field,” Jones said.

This season has been somewhat of an adjustment for Jones: Never in his tenure has he had to fill so many voids left by graduation. After losing 24 players off last year’s squad, the Bulldogs feature 13 underclassman starters.

“We just have to keep working,” Jones said. “There’s going to be some growing pains. You’ve got to fight your way through them.”

Saturday is Jones’ fifth trip as a head coach to Baton Rouge, where he is 2-2. He’s 6-3 overall against the Jaguars.

“Every time I take a team to Baton Rouge, their crowd is something we have to deal with,” Jones said. “I think their crowd will again be loud. They get out there in full support of their team. They possess an exceptional passing game to go along with great backs. Overall, they’re just a real good football team.”