Four downs: Alabama State at Southern _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Southern University helmet

1. BALL SECURITY Alabama State has generally done well in turnover margin, but a lack of ball security cost it badly in a 37-36 loss to Alabama A&M last week. The Hornets have turned the ball over nine times this season, but four of them came last week, including two interceptions that ended scoring threats. Still, ASU has the best turnover margin in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (plus-7). The Hornets have made nine interceptions, second-most in the conference. Southern is tied for fifth at minus-1, having lost the ball 13 times and taken it away 12.

2. QUARTERBACK SECURITY One of the keys could be whether the Hornets can get to the Jaguars quarterbacks more frequently than anybody else has. Southern has allowed just four sacks, fewest in the SWAC, but ASU has 24 sacks, third-most. Both Austin Howard and Deonte Shorts are capable of avoiding the rush. “We’ll start with Austin and if we start sputtering or something it’s a chance for us to inject Shorts and get some excitement and vice versa,” coach Dawson Odums said. “We don’t have a plan that says this guy is going to play this series.”

3. KICK SECURITY ASU has to be wary of Southern’s big-play kickoff and punt returners, though its best option probably is to kick out of bounds. The Jaguars have returned three kickoffs for touchdowns, one each by Willie Quinn, Danny Johnson and Jaleel Richardson, and Quinn returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown against Jackson State last week. Southern leads the SWAC in kickoff return average (25.9) and ASU is third in kickoff coverage (40.5 net average). Southern is third in punt return average (14.4) and ASU is second to last in net punting (31.2).

4. CLOCK SECURITY Something has to give as both teams average less than 30 minutes of possession. The Hornets are last with an average of 26 minutes and 32 seconds and the Jaguars are next at 27:58. The primary cause, of course, is the defenses not forcing punts consistently, but in Southern’s case it not only has the four returns for touchdowns but it also has had numerous long scoring plays, so the small time of possession doesn’t indicate a lack of offensive productivity. The Jaguars are third in the SWAC in scoring (33.4).