With the Southwestern Athletic Conference opener against Mississippi Valley State on Thursday night, Southern doesn’t have much time to dwell on last week’s 47-point loss to Louisiana Tech.
Southern coach Dawson Odums thinks that’s for the best.
“I tell people all the time, ‘You can’t control what happened yesterday, but we are in full control of what happens today,’” Odums said. “You have to put it behind you; you have to lock in, and you have to refocus.
“The way we played, the quicker you can get back to playing makes it better on the coaches and the players.”
Odums openly acknowledged both before and after the game that Louisiana Tech had the advantage as the bigger program. The Bulldogs not only have more scholarships available, but players like running back Kenneth Dixon and quarterback Jeff Driskel are just as good, if not better, than anyone the Jaguars will see during conference play this season.
Odums pointed to tackling as one of the biggest problem areas for the Jaguars on Saturday, with several long plays developing out of missed tackles.
With the lack of spring practice as well as missing reps in fall camp, the Jaguars struggled to adjust to the speed of the Bulldogs.
“Tackling is hard to simulate during practice because you’re trying to keep everybody healthy,” Odums said. “That and the speed of the game. Those two things are out of the way now, and I think our guys really understand how to adjust.”
But the biggest thing Odums is taking away from the game is not how Southern lost, but how they reacted to the loss after the game.
Odums said immediately after the game, players were in the locker room talking about being ready to move on and get ready for next week.
The fourth-year head coach singled out freshman cornerback Demerio Houston as someone who had the correct reaction to poor play.
“When he came to the sideline (after getting beat for a touchdown), I said, ‘You can’t look back, because it’ll create separation,’” Odums said. “He just shook his head. To see the hurt in him lets me know we have the right players.”
It’s particularly important for Houston to bounce back from the loss, as there is a strong possibility he’ll start against Mississippi Valley State on Thursday.
Sophomore cornerback Ki-Jana Curtis is listed as questionable this week with a shoulder injury, which could thrust Houston into his first career start.
Several other players are currently being tested with the secondary because of injuries, including senior wide receiver Justin Morgan, who was originally recruited as an athlete after playing some cornerback in high school. Morgan is currently behind Houston on the depth chart.
Two linebackers are also testing out new positions, with Roshaud Turner and Martin Henry practicing at nickleback this week while Rhaheim Ledbetter’s academic probation is still without a timetable for his return.
Freshman running back Dakota Starks is also working at strong safety behind starter Dionte McDuffy.
Fortunately, whoever fills in for Curtis won’t be completely without help. Sophomore Danny Johnson starts on the opposite side and has been one of the Jaguars’ best defensive weapons the past two seasons.
Johnson intercepted two balls off Louisiana Tech backup quarterback Ryan Higgins on Saturday and registered Southern’s only pass breakup.
“If they do (throw away from Johnson), then we need another corner out there with that same confidence,” Odums said. “That’s what we’re working on. … A lot of freshmen played (against Louisiana Tech); their first time ever playing college football.”