The Southern football players who were on the team the last time Mississippi Valley State came into A.W. Mumford Stadium have vivid memories of the game and its aftermath.
The Jaguars had opened the season a week earlier with a 66-21 loss at New Mexico State, and the team’s confidence was shaky at best. Then a Valley team that had beaten Southern just twice in 20 years prevailed 6-0 in a dismal Jaguars performance.
“I won’t forget that,” senior defensive end Arthur Miley said, “and I’m pretty sure the rest of the team won’t forget it.”
The game is remembered more for the fallout than the outcome.
“Horrible, horrible day, horrible game, horrible next day,” said running back Lenard Tillery, who was a redshirting freshman.
The next day, coach Stump Mitchell was reassigned, and defensive coordinator Dawson Odums was promoted to interim head coach, then head coach after the season.
Southern’s record since then is 20-12. Last season the Jaguars led the Devils just 3-0 after three quarters before prevailing 17-7 in Itta Bena, Mississippi.
“It seems like, ever since I’ve been here,” Miley said, “it’s been a tough game with them.”
Beyond his years
Odums said this week that he thinks a lot of people don’t realize the Jaguars are fighting for another West Division title with a true freshman — Austin Howard — taking most of the snaps at quarterback.
“I don’t think Austin realizes he’s a true freshman,” Odums quipped. “His decision-making is phenomenal. We keep the pressure off of him. That’s why you’ve got to be able to run the football. That makes his job a lot easier.”
Tillery said Howard’s teammates don’t consider him a freshman.
“The first couple of games, a lot of people were making excuses, saying, ‘He’s just a freshman; he’s making freshman mistakes,’ ” Tillery said. “But after about the third game, all the talk about being a freshman went out the window. Now we treat him as the quarterback.”
Howard took over as the starter in the fourth game when Deonte Shorts’ four-game absence because of injury began, but Shorts has played in every game for which he has been healthy.
“We have packages for Shorts, and we’re going to continue to use him,” Odums said. “We’re just trying to utilize all the pieces in the puzzle to put the best team on the field.”
Ex-35 star makes mark
Redshirt freshman defensive end Khalil Young of McDonogh 35 has emerged as one of the top playmakers on the Valley defense this season.
Young, 6-foot-5 and 241 pounds, has made team-bests of 11 tackles for loss and four sacks from his left end position.
By the time Southern’s game kicks off at 6 p.m. Saturday, the Jaguars will know exactly what their game means.
Grambling hosts Alabama State at 2 p.m. And, if the Tigers win, Southern will have to beat Valley to stay alive in the SWAC West race going into its game against Grambling in the Bayou Classic on Nov. 29.
But if Alabama State pulls off an upset, the Bayou Classic will be a showdown for the West title regardless of the Southern-Valley outcome.
Finally, after Saturday’s game, the Jaguars coaches and players will be free to focus on the Bayou Classic the way many outsiders have been doing for weeks now.
“Just win this week, and then everybody will get a chance to talk about whatever they want to talk about,” Odums said.
On the road again
The Southern University Quarterback Club is offering a bus trip to the Bayou Classic on Nov. 29. The cost is $40 and does not include a game ticket.
For more information, visitsouthernuniversityqbclub.com or contact Jonathan Dearbone at (225) 572-5878 or Reginald Jarvis at (225) 939-5906.