Southern won its game against Texas Southern last Saturday the old-fashioned way — by beating the Tigers in the trenches.
The offensive line paved the way for 305 rushing yards.
“When you look back at the box score and see 300 yards rushing — as an offensive line you get real happy knowing that it was on us,” center Terrell Lee said.
Meanwhile, the defensive line set up shop in the TSU backfield, getting eight sacks and yielding just 92 total yards, including minus-2 on the ground.
The rushing stats were largely a byproduct of the sacks, which produced 75 negative yards, but the 22 planned rushes netted a mere 73 yards. The Tigers made just six first downs and ran just 48 plays.
The run-heavy offensive approach was partly because of sloppy field conditions caused by game-long rain that became progressively heavier in the second half.
Offensive line coach Chennis Berry told the line at halftime that the air attack was going to be mostly grounded in the second half because of the weather.
“As an offensive line,” Lee said, “we all looked at each other like “Yeah, we’ve got to make things happen.”
They made plenty happen on the ground, rushing on 31 of 35 second-half plays and netting 186 rushing yards while outscoring the Tigers 19-0.
The offensive line lived up to its pair of nicknames — “The Nickel,” meaning a unit of five, and “GWOL,” short for the “Great Wall of Louisiana”.
“The second half of last game “The Nickel” showed great pride,” said running back Lenard Tillery, who had a career-high 196 rushing yards. “(The running game) just took over in that second half.”
Similar conditions could exist this week because rain is forecast for Saturday when the Jaguars host defending Southwestern Athletic Conference champion and East Division leader Alcorn State, which has a pair of pretty good lines itself.
“I’m a country boy from a small town and we like mud where I’m from (Cairo, Ga.),” guard Anthony Mosley said. “When it was raining I got excited. It’s an O-line’s dream to play in some mud — to hit around and slide around and get a whole bunch of pancakes. It’s just fun.”
Coach Dawson Odums said the Jaguars run defense last week was as good as he’s seen in his three-plus seasons as head coach.
Six Jaguars — Daniel Brown, Aaron Tiller, Kentavious Preston, Simeon Houston, Darez Joseph and Christopher Jones — had a hand in the sacks.
Odums said the battles between the two lines in practice are highly competitive.
“We have a competition period every week,” he said. “Usually we have the offensive and defensive lines go against each other for pass rush and our wide receivers and DBs go against each other. We have that seven-minute period where we’re competing against each other and that’s what it’s all about. I think our guys love to compete.”
“It’s pretty rough every day,” tackle Eric Janeau said.
Members of both lines said the level of competition they face in practice is as high as — if not higher than — any provided by SWAC opponents.
“I feel we’ve got the best offensive line in the SWAC. I feel we’ve got the best defensive line in the SWAC,” noseguard Gabe Echols said. “So it’s best versus best head up, and you can only get better. I think that competition there day in and day out through practice is great. It elevates the team. Once you win in the trenches everything else pretty much falls into play.”
Echols, not surprisingly, said the defensive line comes out on top in practice more often than not. Mosley said the defensive line has “a hard time dealing with us and our trash talking”.
But both sides know they’re making each other better.
“Those are some dudes in the trenches and if you don’t come with the right mindset they will embarrass you and coach will be fussing at you,” Mosley said. “So you have to have your mindset right throughout the week. We have some of the best defensive linemen in the SWAC. Once you beat them you feel confident.
“You just go in knowing it’s going to be a fight every time you line up offensive line versus defensive line — ones versus ones. At the same time, we’re making each other better because we have the best offensive linemen in the SWAC.”
Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.