Asked again Monday about his quarterback rotation, Southern football coach Stump Mitchell reiterated what he has said all season.
“Dray Joseph is going to be my starter the entire year, unless he gets injured,” Mitchell said. “Dray has my full backing, and I think one thing everyone would like to know is that they have the support of someone. He doesn’t have to wonder where he’s going to be.”
The question arose in light of J.P. Douglas’ strong second half in a 28-21 win at Mississippi Valley State on Saturday.
SU stuck mostly to the ground in the first half, when Joseph completed 5 of 10 passes for 60 yards and one touchdown. Joseph, a sophomore, added a 16-yard touchdown run in the second quarter but also threw two interceptions.
“The interceptions that Dray threw this past game (were) not totally his fault,” Mitchell said. “He put the ball, on occasion, where it was supposed to be, and a couple receivers - they didn’t do the right things. So it makes it appear as if Dray was bad in that situation.”
Douglas, a freshman, threw for 223 yards in the second half, leading SU to its game-winning TD drive in the fourth quarter.
“J.P. Douglas came in and played well,” Mitchell said. “He threw the ball well, but he made some mistakes as well.”
Joseph has completed 52 percent of his throws for 999 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions this season. His best game was Sept. 10 against Alabama A&M, when he threw for 308 yards and three touchdowns in a 21-6 win.
Douglas has completed 52 percent of his throws for 408 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
At any rate, Joseph will start when SU (2-3, 2-1 Southwestern Athletic Conference) hosts Prairie View (3-2, 3-1) at 6 p.m. Saturday. And at some point, Douglas will play, as he has in four of five games this season.
“So I like where we’re at with both quarterbacks. Both of those guys can play, and both of them will play,” Mitchell said. “So Prairie View knows they’re going to face both quarterbacks. They know that. So they can prepare for what each of those guys can do, good and bad.”
It’s no secret now that Southern has struggled in the red zone this season, ranking last in the SWAC with five touchdowns in 14 trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.
Sometimes, Mitchell noted, receivers have dropped passes in the end zone, as they did twice in a 28-24 loss to Jackson State.
In other cases, they’ve missed field goals; Southern is 1-for-3 on the year. In other cases, such as last week at Valley, Mitchell didn’t feel comfortable kicking into the wind. Twice, the team tried to convert on fourth down, but failed. SU has four turnovers on downs inside the 20.
Mitchell said the root of all the problems is the same.
“Everybody’s just got to be on the same page,” he said. “That’s just the bottom line.”
Southern ranks last in the SWAC in red-zone efficiency this season, going 6-for-14 (43 percent), with one field goal and five TDs.
PV has won four of its past five meetings against Southern. ... Starting with Saturday’s game at SU, the Panthers play four of their next five games on the road. Their only home game during that stretch is Oct. 29 against Jackson State. ... Southern is asking fans to wear pink to this week’s game in support of breast cancer awareness.