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Southern University running back Herbert Edwards (21) hops through would-be tacklers in the first half of the Jaguars' game against the Fort Valley State Wildcats, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 at A.W. Mumford Stadium. SU led 21-14 at the half.

ADVOCATE STAFF PHOTO BY TRAVIS SPRADLING

Southern senior running back Herb Edwards couldn’t lie — he would like call himself a 1,000-yard rusher.

It would be cool, he said, to some day look back at his playing career and tell people about his first and only year as the top option in the Southern backfield, when he reached that big milestone.

It would be cool, but it is secondary to the larger goal.

“It would be nice to look back and say, ‘Hey, my last year playing at Southern I received 1,000 yards rushing,’ ” Edwards said. “But, ‘Hey, my last year at Southern, I didn’t get 1,000 but we won a championship’ — that sounds a little better to me.”

Edwards sits 91 yards shy of 1,000 yards rushing as Southern is ramping up for its annual Bayou Classic rivalry game against Grambling.

He has gotten to this point with a torrid stretch to close the season.

Since taking over for an injured Devon Benn in the first quarter of the Fort Valley State game, Edwards has consistently produced big numbers out of the backfield.

In his past six games, all Southern wins, Edwards totaled 810 of his 909 yards rushing .

Edwards had never finished with more than 27 carries or 164 yards in a single season before this one. As the season progressed and Edwards received more experience, Southern coach Dawson Odums saw a new runner emerge.

“His patience and vision has really been the difference in his last four or five games,” Odums said.

Edwards credited the offensive line for his big rushing days.

“They know coverages, they know blitzes, they know fronts, they know stunts — the o-line is amazing,” Edwards said. “… The O-line may be the heart of our offense, and that’s the heart of my success.”

If he is going to top 1,000 yards this weekend, he will need to do it against the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s stingiest rush defense. The Tigers are yielding just 2.7 yards per carry and 92.9 yards rushing per game, both tops in the SWAC.

But, Edwards said, 1-0 is more important to him than 1,000.

“If I scratch 1,000 yards this season, it would be great, it would be a great accomplishment,” Edwards said. “… But I’m more focused on this win.”

Nash to start at punter

Odums said redshirt senior Murphy Nash would serve as Southern’s starting punter for the Bayou Classic.

Nash handled the punting duties in Southern’s last game against Texas Southern, punting four times for a 30.2 yard average. He took over for sophomore Taylor Merritt, who had started the previous five games.

“(Nash) played really well last week,” Odums said. “I think he’s getting more confidence. He’s been in the environment; Taylor has been in the environment. I’m just more comfortable right now with Murphy Nash punting.'

Southern has rotated three punters  this season. Freshman Austin Summerbell sports a team-best 35.9 yards per kick, but has been dealing with a nagging injury that has limited him to seven punts this season.

The Jaguars are ranked next-to-last in the SWAC in punting average at 31.3 yards per kick.

Thanksgiving plans

In his four years at Southern, quarterback Austin Howard said he has had one Thanksgiving meal with his family.

“I think probably my sophomore year I went back home for like two hours, just to say what’s up, then came back,” Howard said. “They knew what’s going on, they don’t press on me being home for Thanksgiving. … We’ve got business to take care of, they’re alright with it.”

This year, Odums said the plan is for the team to practice early Thursday morning then catch a bus later in the day to New Orleans to get ready for the Bayou Classic. Odums said some of the local players would likely invite teammates over for a quick meal at their family home.

Tuesday was Southern’s final day of classes this week.

Follow Luke Johnson on Twitter, @ByLukeJohnson.