NCAA Football: Southern at TSU

Nov 11, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Southern University Jaguars wide receiver Christopher Chaney (28) rushes for a touchdown against the Texas Southern Tigers in the second half at BBVA Stadium. Southern University Jaguars won 33 to 7. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea For the Advocate

Thomas B. Shea

Southern redshirt freshman Chris Chaney scored his first career touchdown Saturday against Texas Southern, and it probably did not happen the way he figured it would.

Instead of being split wide, getting open on a pass route and catching a pass from quarterback Austin Howard, Chaney lined up next to the senior quarterback, took a handoff and sprinted around the tackle for a 2-yard rushing touchdown that provided the final 33-7 score.

Chaney came to Southern as a receiver. He found the field as a running back, and he might have found a new home there.

“He has a skillset that I don’t think we’ve tapped all the way into,” said Southern coach Dawson Odums. “He’s an explosive football player, I think he plays with great leverage and great vision at the running back position.

“I think he gives us something there that the other running backs don’t possess.”

Chaney made an impression as a slot receiver during preseason camp, but it wasn’t strong enough to not be buried on the depth chart.

But a lightbulb flashed in Odums’ head when redshirt freshman running back Devon Benn went down earlier this season with a knee injury that required surgery.

Odums took a look at what he had left on his roster, including several players he figured would be better off redshirting. Then he thought back to Chaney’s high school days at East Feliciana, where he played running back.

“He wasn’t playing a lot at wide receiver,” Odums said. “We asked him to try running back, and I think it’s been a great move for him and our football team.”

The playing time has still been slim for Chaney, who has largely stood on the sidelines while senior Herb Edwards established himself as Southern’s bell cow.

Chaney had only carried the ball six times leading up to Saturday’s game. But he showed some flashes in that small sample, breaking a 29-yarder against Jackson State.

Southern increased his role Saturday, giving him eight carries. He totaled 31 yards with those carries, including his 2-yard touchdown, and also added a 12-yard catch out of the backfield on which he broke several tackles and nearly scored.

“I think the young man is playing about as well as he can play with the amount of time he’s been at the position, but you can see he’s a natural talent at the position,” Odums said.

No time to waste

Usually, when Southern has an open date on its schedule, that week is dedicated to rest and self-scouting. The main thrust of the game plan for the following week usually is not installed until the Sunday before the game. 

Odums made it sound like that will not be the case this week.

“We'll get right into it,” Odums said. “We’re treating it as if we’re playing this week, so we’ll get our work in; we’ll work on the fundamentals, we’ll work on our weaknesses, we’ll try to get better as a football team.”

In the rankings

Grambling held steady at No. 13 in the STATS FCS top 25 rankings, the same spot it has occupied for the past two weeks.

The Tigers beat Alabama State 24-7 on Saturday, extending their winning streak to nine games after a season-opening loss to Tulane.

Like Southern, Grambling will also be idle this week to prepare for the Bayou Classic.

Follow Luke Johnson on Twitter, @ByLukeJohnson.