HOUSTON — Five minutes before the SWAC news conference at NRG Stadium was set to begin, Southern football coach Dawson Odums grabbed the microphone and told everyone to take their seats so they could get started.
Despite conference officials and Alcorn State representatives not yet entering the room, Odums got everyone’s attention and made it clear he and seniors Zachary Brown and Brian McCain were ready to go.
On the football field, the Jaguars are taking that same mindset, as Southern eyes its second straight SWAC championship when it faces Alcorn State at 3 p.m. Saturday.
“I think we’ve done a great job of getting our guys in position to go take care of business, and we are ready to go,” Odums said. “At the end of the day, it is all about the hunger to go out and get what is in front of you.”
Southern has done just that over the past two months, riding a seven-game win streak back into Houston, where the Jaguars won their first championship in 10 years last December.
Even though they are playing an Alcorn team that has never won a SWAC title, Odums said Southern’s championship familiarity doesn’t make it the favorite.
“I really don’t think there is an advantage to being back here,” Odums said. “The only thing you are familiar with is where you stand and the environment. You still have to put your plan together and prepare the way you need to prepare and you go execute.”
The Jaguars will be facing a team that beat an injury- and academically-limited SU team 56-16 earlier this year. Now at full strength, Southern will give Alcorn a different look in the rematch.
“They beat us handily earlier this year, and we’ve had to live with that,” Odums said. “They are a good football team, and coach Hopkins has done a good job. It’s good that we have a chance to see that team again. It ought to be an exciting football game.”
When the two teams first met in September, Southern was short several players and had another one learning a new position. McCain was just picking up the nuances of playing linebacker after moving over from fullback.
“It’s just what we’ve done at Southern,” McCain said. “It’s the greater good for the greater amount. The team needed me at linebacker, so I moved over. You sacrifice for the team. You can accomplish what you want as a team if you can put yourself to the side.”
For Brown, the Jaguars finding their way back into the SWAC championship game has all been part of the script.
“It’s all about following the course,” Brown said. “We don’t change what we do. We just follow the instructions coach Odums has laid out, and it has led to success. It’s all about staying focused to succeed.”
After an emotional victory over rival Grambling in the Bayou Classic last week, the Jaguars have had to quickly shift that focus.
“We always call our Mondays ‘Moving forward Mondays,’ ” McCain said. “We moved forward from last week and focus all of our attention on the coming game.”
As Odums and his two seniors sat on stage at NRG Stadium, they looked relaxed, but focused, ready to get things finished.
“You might have a little less nerves being here again, but at the end of the day, you’ve still got to be prepared to play,” Brown said.
“I think it is very important to show that we are a group of guys that came together with a single focus and goal in mind. We are here to complete that business.”