Here’s The Next Level for Alabama A&M at Southern: Win or lose, Jaguars leave little drama for the second half _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Southern quarterback Austin Howard motions to his unit against Prairie View A&M on Oct. 17 at A.W. Mumford Stadium.

The Next Level: Win or lose, Jaguars leave little drama for the second half

Southern has taken one of coach Dawson Odums’ mottos to heart in its five wins this season.

“Coach Odums always says, ‘Start fast and finish fast,’ ” quarterback Austin Howard said.

In the Jaguars’ wins, they’ve gotten the start fast part right, so much so that there hasn’t been a need to finish all that fast.

In each victory, they have taken at least a two-touchdown lead in the first half and won easily. On average, Southern has taken 26-point leads before the opponent has made the game more competitive, often after the Jaguars started playing guys at the bottom of the depth chart.

“You always try and get those guys reps, especially the third- and fourth-team guys,” Odums said. “They work hard so you try to get them some experience.”

On Sept. 10, the Jaguars bolted to a 33-0 second-quarter lead and were well on their way to a 50-13 win at Mississippi Valley State.

Nine days later, they took a 29-7 second-quarter lead against Jackson State and coasted despite being outscored (24-21) the rest of the way.

Southern rolled to a 31-8 lead at Alabama State and won by a modest margin (45-34), though it was never in danger of losing the lead.

The most closely contested win came at Texas Southern. The Jaguars had a 21-7 second-quarter lead before the Tigers evened the score at halftime. Southern outscored TSU 19-0 in the second half.

Then came last week’s game at Arkansas-Pine Bluff in which the Jaguars built a 41-2 second-quarter lead on their way to a 57-24 win.

Three of Southern’s four losses have flipped that script.

In the season opener, Louisiana Tech took a 52-8 second-quarter lead and never looked back in a 63-15 rout.

At Georgia, the Jaguars trailed 20-6 at halftime, but the Bulldogs scored 28 unanswered points in the third quarter.

Two weeks ago, Alcorn State scored a touchdown on its first play, built a 21-0 second-quarter lead and rolled to a 48-7 victory.

Only once in nine games has the outcome been at all in doubt by the end of the third quarter.

That happened against Prairie View when the lead changed hands eight times before the Panthers prevailed 47-42.

So chances are, when Southern and Alabama A&M meet Saturday in A.W. Mumford Stadium, one team or the other will have things well in hand before halftime.

Four Downs

1. Roller coaster

Coach Dawson Odums refers to the Jaguars’ season as a roller-coaster ride with good reason. Southern has alternated wins and losses with one exception — back-to-back wins against Mississippi Valley State and Jackson State in Weeks 2 and 3. That pattern suggests a Jaguars loss, but A&M has just two wins.

2. Silver linings

A&M ranks in the bottom half of the SWAC in most stats, but it has been among the better teams at avoiding self-inflicted wounds in conference play. The Bulldogs average the fewest penalty yards (54.3) and rank third in turnover margin (plus-0.33 per game). Also, they possess the ball the second-most (31:40).

3. Junior day?

It’s senior day, but a pair of Jaguar juniors can reach milestones. Lenard Tillery needs 25 rushing yards for his second consecutive 1,000-yard season and 112 to become SU’s all-time leading rusher. Willie Quinn can tie the FCS record for special teams TD returns in a season (6) with a score on a punt or kickoff return.

4. Special pair

Quinn isn’t the only standout special-teamer in this game. In SWAC play, AAMU’s Octayvious Miles is second in kickoff return average (26.8), and Nick Carden is second in net punting (39.5). The Bulldogs, though, have struggled with their field-goal kicking against SWAC teams, making 2 of 7, which is last in the conference.