A perfect storm of sorts, created when a depleted secondary faced a razor-sharp quarterback, proved to be too much for Southern to overcome Saturday night against Northwestern State.
Before the game, Jaguars coach Dawson Odums said he didn’t think the outcome would mirror last year’s lopsided loss in Natchitoches. Demons quarterback Zach Adkins had other ideas. He set or tied three school records while leading his team to a 51-27 win at A.W. Mumford Stadium.
Adkins turned in a stellar performance for the second consecutive year, but this time, circumstances were different.
Last season, Southern ran into an inspired Northwestern State squad motivated by disparaging pregame comments made by then-SU linebacker Anthony Balancier. This time, academic issues that have plagued the Jaguars resurfaced.
Complicating matters further for Southern was the play of a red-hot quarterback.
Shortly before kickoff, Southern learned that three defensive backs — all players who had started in Southern’s first two games — were no longer considered to be academically certified.
“We can’t control the elements of who plays or what happened at the start of the game,” Southern linebacker/fullback Brian McCain said. “The next man up, whoever is going to be in the starting 11 has to go out and play to the best of his ability.”
Still, such a setting would have almost any quarterback licking his chops, and Adkins was ready to take advantage. The senior from Riverside, California, completed 30 of 35 passes for 230 yards with no interceptions.
At one point, Adkins completed 19 consecutive passes, breaking the school record of 13 straight. The 30 completions were also a school record, and Adkins’ four scoring tosses tied a school mark.
“I felt good coming out. It was nice (football) weather today, no humidity,” Adkins said. “We just had a good game plan and the coaches had us well-prepared.”
A depleted Southern secondary played a hand in the gaudy numbers, but Adkins was on the money with his throws, as well. A year after burning Southern for 331 yards and three touchdowns in a 55-14 romp, he was on top of his game again.
“It just felt like a normal game, almost like another day at practice,” he said. “I was just throwing the ball around and my receivers were making plays and doing their thing.”
Odums said his regular defensive backfield practiced and worked on a game plan most of the week before learning of possible academic issues Thursday night. The loss of starters, as well as practice time for the backups, played a role.
“We know (Adkins) can throw the football. It wasn’t deep passes. He was pretty much just throwing it in front,” Odums said. “I think there was inexperience with some of our guys; they were tentative. They didn’t want to give up big plays.
“You’re going to have that when you’re playing young guys. We didn’t get on them. We kept them motivated.”
Adkins spread the ball to nine receivers, with his longest completion coming on a 23-yard toss to Corey Simmons. Cody Jones was the most frequent target, catching six balls for 43 yards and a score.
“Their quarterback, he did some great things,” McCain said. “He was very poised in the pocket. It was just a lack of pressure on our part.”