Setting aside his whistle and practice plans for a moment, Stump Mitchell played the temporarily role of salesman Tuesday afternoon.
The second-year Southern football coach made an aggressive pitch to fans, encouraging them to get fired up for this week’s home game against Prairie View. Mitchell’s team has given them one good reason to buy a few tickets.
“It’s a special weekend because of the situation we find ourselves in,” Mitchell said.
Thanks to last week’s 28-21 win at Mississippi Valley State, the Jaguars (2-3, 2-1 Southwestern Athletic Conference) trail Prairie View by only a half-game in the Western Division.
Southern can leapfrog the Panthers (3-2, 3-1) into first place with a win this week. The teams meet at 6 p.m. Saturday in A.W. Mumford Stadium.
“Your Jaguars have the opportunity, after this football game, to be in first place in the West,” Mitchell said. “And that’s what it’s all about. So get excited about that. If you don’t get excited about anything else, get excited about that, and come into A.W. Mumford Stadium and have a blast.”
Shot at a winning streak
Mitchell conceded again this week that while the Jaguars “did not play our best football” against Valley, last week’s win was still “huge” because it gives SU a chance to get back to .500.
The Jaguars were 1-3 after their collapse Sept. 24 against Florida A&M, a 38-33 loss. Now at 2-3 overall, they can move to 3-3 with a win Saturday against Prairie View and its coach, former SU safety Heishma Northern.
“There’s a lot of things we haven’t done, and one of them is, we haven’t won two games in a row since I’ve been here,” Mitchell noted. “We can do that because we won that game in Itta Bena. So it was a huge, huge victory.”
Southern is 4-12 under Mitchell. After their previous three wins, the Jaguars had losses of 24 points (31-7 to Arkansas-Monticello), four points (49-45 last season to Jackson State) and four points (28-24 this season to Jackson State).
QB shuffle at Prairie View
Mitchell, of course, has turned heads this season by playing two quarterbacks, Dray Joseph and J.P. Douglas, in four of the team’s first five games.
But Southern isn’t the only team shuffling quarterbacks.
This week’s opponent, Prairie View, appeared to have settled on freshman Jerry Lovelocke until last week, when Lovelocke missed the second half of a 31-23 win against Grambling with a minor ankle injury. Lovelocke is available this week, Northern said, but he’s not a lock to start.
Senior Jonathan Troast completed 21 of 27 passes for four touchdowns and no interceptions against Grambling.
Who, then, will start Saturday’s game? Northern said the answer is simple: Whoever has the best week of practice. It’s a three-man competition between Lovelocke, Troast and freshman De’Auntre Smiley.
“If Jerry has a good week of practice, then he’s going to be our starter. If he doesn’t have a good week of practice, then we’ll start one of the other guys,” Northern said. “We don’t look at it like it’s a controversy because we have been in games where we’ve played all three, so it’s no big issue. It’s not who starts; it’s who finishes.”
The three quarterbacks have completed 59 percent of their passes for 1,053 yards, 11 TDs and five interceptions.
In support of breast cancer awareness, Southern players will wear pink wristbands and shoelaces Saturday. Mitchell, who wore a pink T-shirt to Tuesday’s news conference, said he believes everybody knows someone who’s been affected by some form of cancer. He said his own father and brother both died from cancer. Mitchell also remembered that former SU player Tyrone Jones died of brain cancer in 2008. Jones and Mitchell both grew up in southern Georgia.