Southern, Grambling focus on little things during open date ahead of Bayou Classic _lowres

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Grambling State Tigers defensive back Tyree Hollins (27) breaks up a pass intended for Southern University Jaguars wide receiver Mike Jones (89) during the third quarter of the Bayou Classic Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Southern won 52-45.

Southern and Grambling both have a week to work on the little things before they turn their attention to the big thing: the Bayou Classic.

Both teams are using an open date this week to focus on fundamentals and getting healthier before they gear up for their annual showdown to conclude the regular season Nov. 28 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“We’ll just work on a few things and see if we can get a little bit better on fundamentals,” Jaguars coach Dawson Odums said Monday during the Southwestern Athletic Conference coaches weekly teleconference. “Then we’ll take some time off and let our guys heal and recuperate because we’ve played six games in a row and we’ve got some guys with some nicks and bruises. We’ll modify our practices and we’ll still be able to compete at a high level and get as much work done as possible.”

Southern practiced early Monday, which is normally an off day for the players. They’ll work again Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, then take a break until Sunday when they’ll resume their game-week routine.

The Tigers are following a similar plan.

“This week our focus is continuing to work on the little things,” Grambling coach Broderick Fobbs said, “to scratch where it itches, look at the flaws, look at the mistakes, look at the things that you’re not doing well because your football team tells you based off of film what our focus needs to be.”

Fobbs told his players in a meeting Sunday to focus on three general areas — “your mental approach, your physical development and your technical development.”

“When we talk about the mental approach,” Fobbs said, “it’s understanding the ins and outs of everything that we’re doing. The physical approach means making sure that you’re getting treatment several times per day, but then also making sure that you’re in the weight room and being conditioned and prepared.

“Technical development is understating your assignment alignment and things that you have to do in order to be effective. Those three areas should take us to where we want to go.”

Title game on ‘back burner’

The Tigers (8-0 in the SWAC) are already going where they wanted to go all along: to Houston to play in the SWAC title game Dec. 5.

They clinched the West Division when they won at Arkansas-Pine Bluff 49-31 on Saturday.

“It’s great that we know that we are playing in Houston in three weeks, but you have to put that on the back burner,” Fobbs said. “We set out to win our conference. We set out to do our part and to do our best to win every ball game.

“In order to do that, you have to be focused on each opponent for the next particular week. We want to remain focused this week and next week so we can play the way we’re definitely capable of playing.”

Alcorn’s next?

Grambling’s opponent in the SWAC title game likely will be defending SWAC champion Alcorn State. The Braves (5-2) can clinch the East with a victory against Alabama A&M on Saturday.

Alcorn has a two-game lead on Jackson State with two games to play, including a head-to-head game against the Tigers in two weeks.

“I just know we need to win this ballgame to get to where we want to go,” Braves coach Jay Hopson said. “Every year you want to be in position to compete for a championship. This will be the first time we’ll talk about it because we don’t talk about it until a game shows up with that implication.”

SWAC honors Tiller

Southern defensive end Aaron Tiller was named SWAC Defensive Player of the Week.

The sophomore from Columbus, Ohio, had four tackles for loss, including three sacks, and forced two fumbles in the Jaguars’ 46-7 victory against Alabama A&M on Saturday in A.W. Mumford Stadium.

Tiller finished with five tackles as Southern held the Bulldogs to 110 yards. He took over the SWAC lead with 10 sacks for the season.

Alcorn State quarterback Lenorris Footman was Offensive Player of the Week after accounting for 260 total yards and four touchdowns in the Braves’ 65-13 win at Texas Southern. He completed 11 of 18 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 75 yards and two touchdowns.

Former Rayville High punter Jonathan Walker of Grambling was named Special Teams Player of the Week. The junior averaged 33.6 yards on five punts, four of which were downed inside the 20-yard line, against UAPB.

Prairie View freshman CB Dominique Weaver was Newcomer of the Week. He had an interception, two pass breakups and three tackles, including one for loss, in the Panthers’ 38-13 victory at Alabama State.

Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.