The deepest cut didn’t come from the Texas Southern football team.
It didn’t come from the visiting fans, either.
No, as the Tigers pounded Southern last season in a 54-7 wipeout that was every bit as lopsided as the score, the deepest cut probably came from the band.
With less than a minute left, Derricus Purdy picked off a desperate Southern pass at the TSU 1-yard line, then weaved, juked and sprinted 99 yards for the final touchdown at A.W. Mumford Stadium.
Moments later, TSU’s marching band, the Ocean of Soul, celebrated with its own rendition of “Do Watcha Wanna,” a Mardi Gras-themed song that’s a fixture in the Human Jukebox playlist.
It was a subtle-but-effective jab at Southern, whose once-proud football program was en route to a 2-9 record, the worst in school history.
The two teams meet again in a Southwestern Athletic Conference showdown at 6 p.m. Saturday, this time at Delmar Stadium, a well-worn high-school venue in Houston.
This time, the roles aren’t completely reversed - but surprisingly, Southern has an edge.
Take it from TSU’s Kevin Ramsey, who was promoted from defensive coordinator to interim head coach after the school fired Johnnie Cole this spring, citing an ongoing NCAA investigation into the program.
Asked about what he sees in the Jaguars, Ramsey responded: “This is not the same team we played a year ago.”
At first glance, it seems that way.
Despite leading the entire Football Championship Subdivision in total defense, Texas Southern (3-5, 1-5 SWAC) - the reigning SWAC champion - is last in the Western Division.
And although the Jaguars (3-5, 3-3) have plenty of flaws, they’re tied for second in the West, trailing Prairie View by a half-game.
Southern can’t play in the SWAC Championship Game; because of a low APR score, the NCAA handed the team a one-year playoff ban, and conference presidents and chancellors voted to extend the ban to the SWAC title game.
Still, with three games left, the Jaguars can at least say they have a chance at first place in the West.
Last weekend, Southern snapped a two-game losing streak with a 30-14 homecoming win against Alcorn State. After the game, several players said the Jaguars’ goal is to win all of their final three games, thereby giving SU a winning record.
The first step toward that goal, of course, is defeating Texas Southern - the reigning conference champion, a team that humiliated SU on its own field last season.
“This is a whole different ballgame,” Mitchell said. “It’s 0-0 now. Hopefully, we can come out and establish some things, but it won’t be easy. I can guarantee you that.”
That might sound like a line from the coaches’ cliché handbook. Still, it rings true.
In winning their first SWAC title since 1968 last season, the Tigers paired a burly, physical defense with a stout running game.
TSU still has both.
Its defense is first in the SWAC, allowing only 221.6 yards per game, and its offense ranks second in the SWAC at 353.0.
Somehow, the Tigers keep losing.
In fact, speaking of deep cuts, Mississippi Valley State ended an 18-game losing streak by handing TSU a shocking 12-9 defeat Saturday.
It was the Tigers’ fourth straight loss in conference play. Texas Southern hasn’t won a SWAC game since it outlasted Alcorn 14-7 on Sept. 24. Its only win since then was a 42-11 wipeout of Division II Central State on Oct. 22.
Asked Monday if he’d ever coached a team that played so well on defense, yet continually found ways to lose, Ramsey paused.
“Well, no. To answer your question, no,” he said. “But I have been around the game long enough. I’ve seen great defenses and great teams, and the end result is the ?W.’ It is about winning, and, boy, we’ve lost some close ones. ... And one thing about our kids (is) they have been responding. Our approach is still our approach.”
And it could be a tough approach for Southern to handle.
Though the Jaguars have improved on defense this season - they’ve given up only three touchdown passes in eight games - they’re still vulnerable against the run, allowing a SWAC-high 179.9 rushing yards per game.
“So we definitely have to somehow try to control the ballgame,” Mitchell said.
If they don’t, TSU will be more than happy to strike up the band.