Winning is great, but Southern coach Dawson Odums is looking for more.
His football team is seeking its sixth consecutive victory this Saturday against Texas Southern in the penultimate game of the regular season.
Odums is looking for his team to take the next step, to go beyond winning and into domination of an opponent in all three phases.
“Now it’s just about being complete,” Odums said. “At times in that football game, we played dominating football, but we’ve got to sustain that from start to finish, and that’s the challenge for this football team.
This isn’t a goal specific to this week against a struggling Texas Southern football team that just picked up its first win of the season last week against Mississippi Valley State. Odums is looking for his team to transcend good enough and be great.
Southern is outscoring opponents by a healthy 13.8-point margin per game during its five-game win streak, but there has also been a feeling that some of those games were closer than they should have been.
“We still haven’t put it together yet,” said senior cornerback Danny Johnson. “… I feel like if we could put all of it together, we could be a dangerous football team.”
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In the first game of the win streak, Southern jumped out to a 21-7 first-quarter lead against Division II Fort Valley State, then struggled offensively for most of the remainder of the game.
Southern started similarly strong against Alabama A&M, leading 21-0 midway through the third quarter, before allowing the Bulldogs to make things a little interesting with two second-half touchdowns.
Against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, a 20-point lead at halftime evaporated thanks to failings in all three phases. Southern hung on to win by seven, needing to recover an onside kick late in the fourth quarter to sew things up.
Even in last week’s impressive win against Prairie View, Southern found itself needing a defensive stop late in the fourth quarter after fumbling away a chance to run out the clock.
When Odums says he is looking for a dominant effort, he means that he wants to see his team play consistently sound football for 60 minutes, something he has not seen yet this season.
“That’s why some of our games have been close,” Odums said. “It’s not because of the opponent, it’s what we’ve done.”
His players translate this as such: everybody has a single job on a single play, and everybody needs to do that job on every play.
“Whether your job is to contain on defense, whether your job is to block, whether your job is to run the ball or if your only job is kickoff return; be the best at your job every time it’s time for you to do your job,” said center Jaylon Brinson.
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It boils down to focus, which Odums acknowledged can be tough for a team as young as the one Southern is putting on the field.
What Odums wants to see eliminated are the preventable negatives that are keeping Southern from truly dominating a game — a shanked punt, a missed extra point, a holding penalty or a poor tackling angle that leads to a big play.
“It’s not a lack of effort,” Odums said. “It’s just guys are really trying hard to make their block, guys are really trying hard to make sure they’re in position.
“But at the end of the day, we’ve got to play smart as well. That’s what we’re looking for. If we do that, the sky is the limit on how good this football team can become.”