One recurring feature during Southern’s five-game winning streak has been the Jaguars’ stifling defense coming out of halftime.
Opponents have scored a total of just 10 third-quarter points during the streak, which will be tested when Southern hosts Mississippi Valley State at 6 p.m. Saturday. Southern has scored 33 points in those quarters.
All 10 of the opponents’ points were scored by Alabama A&M in the third quarter of the Jaguars 35-34 victory in Normal, Alabama, on Oct. 4. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Jackson State, Alabama State and Texas Southern were all shut out in the third quarter.
A&M had the only third-quarter scoring drive in this stretch, marching 78 yards to a touchdown. The Bulldogs’ other three points in the quarter came after they gained 1 yard on three plays after recovering a fumble.
It’s ironic that A&M was the team to score the only third-quarter points during this streak because the Jaguars say that halftime was the most memorable of the season.
Coach Dawson Odums said he is “probably the most positive guy that you could be around at halftime”, understanding that it’s easier to get players to absorb teaching and adjustments when everyone is calm.
“I was not calm at Alabama A&M,” Odums said.
He had reason to not be calm. Southern trailed 24-14 and Odums, who doubles as defensive coordinator, was particularly upset that the Bulldogs had scored all those points on their first four possessions.
“I just think that needed a different kind of environment,” he said.
“He just knew we weren’t playing to our full potential,” cornerback Kevin King said. “He got a little animated and we really needed a chewing out. We got fired up and played really well the second half.”
Running back Lenard Tillery said Odums’ attention-getting talk “wasn’t so much anger.”
“It was more disappointment that we would come out and have a showing like that,” Tillery said. “As a team we knew we were a lot better than that.
“He came in and let us know, “hey we’re better than this. That team that is on the field right now, we’re a lot better than them and we need to show who we are.” That’s what we did. We came out and showed that we could make plays and make stops.”
Odums said Southern’s approach to halftime is simple. He and his assistants make a quick assessment of what needs work, then they address the players on how to do improve those things.
“We usually talk about three things — penalties, turnovers and effort,” Odums said. “Are we winning those three categories? If not, how can we improve in them? Then we make a couple of adjustments and they go see their segment.”
The Jaguars have outscored their opponents 72-46 in the second halves of the games during the win streak after being outscored 80-56 in the previous second halves.
“For some reason,” defensive end Arthur Miley said, “pretty much since I’ve been here we’ve been a second-half team. We know the second half we have to come out and play like it’s zero-zero if we want to get the win so we start out the third quarter dominating. Hopefully it flows to the fourth.”
“I guess we’re a second-half team,” Tillery said, “but we need to be a four-quarter team.”