Before Saturday night’s 28-24 win over Jackson State, Southern place-kicker Ruan Albuquerque had gone 5 of 5 on field goals this season. The only misses were on extra points.
On Saturday, Albuquerque missed both field goal attempts, putting the Jaguars in a closer situation than they would have liked.
But coach Dawson Odums isn’t ready to panic just yet.
Odums views Saturday as more of an outlier because inexperience more than a pressing issue.
“We just missed a couple field goals,” Odums said. “That’s all fundamentals. It’s also kicking on grass — that’s the first time in a while our guys have been on grass. … So that plays a part in it. Just getting them familiar with the surface and having a better understanding of what the ball is going to do when they kick it, all those things will help going forward. I think those guys will be great for us before their time is up at Southern.”
Punter Taylor Merritt didn’t have his best day, either Saturday, with an average of just 27 yards on two kicks.
Odums summed that up as a young player being nervous after having a punt blocked, a blame he puts on missed blocking assignments and poor communication up front rather than on Merritt.
“Now, you’ve got a first-year kicker, you get one blocked, what does that do to his nerves?” Odums asked. “Now, we kick one about 14 yards. So you come back to practice. … I put my arm around him, got on him hard Sunday, then you build him up as the week goes.
“He’s responding. He’s definitely going to be a good one for us. But it’s our job to protect him and give him an opportunity to get it off.”
Ledbetter getting better
Southern senior defensive back Rhaheim Ledbetter made his much anticipated return to the football field last week after putting academic eligibility issues to rest that cost him the last year of his career.
Odums said he planned on slowly working Ledbetter back into the lineup after so much missed time, and he stuck to his word. But Ledbetter only played on special teams last weekend.
Southern defensive coordinator Trei Oliver said he plans to use Ledbetter on defense this week against Arkansas-Pine Bluff with a few select packages, and his playing time should only go up from there.
Ledbetter still has a ways to go before being fully integrated back into the lineup, but Oliver is seeing the necessary improvements.
“We have guys that we’ve been running with since day one,” Oliver said. "He’s been practicing with us, but with anything else, once you start getting chemistry, guys are getting used to communicating with each other and you don’t want to break the chemistry and just throw people in there.
“Once we merge those guys together and they get comfortable working together, his reps will increase.”
Bayou Classic goes mobile
Organizers of the Bayou Classic launched the game’s first mobile app available for iOS and Android users.
The free app features three main components, including a schedule of events, news feed and fan voting section.
Users can see start times and locations to all Bayou Classic-sanctioned events while those traveling for the game can order a local car pick-up with Uber, which has partnered with the event.
The app also allows fans to vote for the game MVP and the winner of the Greek Show, both of which will count for 20 percent of the total ballot.