Southern senior safety Blake Monroe doesn’t usually engage in trash talk, and that’s certainly not going to change this week against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and quarterback Brandon Duncan.
Monroe and Duncan go a ways back. They played together for one season at Jireh Prep Academy in North Carolina.
“That’s my guy,” Monroe said. “He’s a real cool dude, real laid back, down to earth. I just like his demeanor and how he plays the game. He never seems to be rattled, always seems to be under poise.”
So no, he won’t go out of his way to talk some pregame smack. He described that sort of thing as “friendly fire.”
But if he gets an interception Saturday? That might change things.
Those have been hard to come by for those playing against Duncan this season, and rare finds need to be celebrated.
“He better not let me pick him off,” Monroe said. “I’ll send him a little Instagram comment saying, ‘You better not let me pick you off, bro.’ ”
Duncan has thrown only one interception this year. He’s one of two FCS players with a minimum of 200 pass attempts to have thrown that few to the other team.
He comes into Saturday’s game leading the SWAC in passing yards per game (269), and his 1,614 yards are ranked No. 17 among FCS players.
The redshirt sophomore showed off his talent earlier this season in an upset of Alcorn State, when he threw for 505 yards and four touchdowns. That’s the highest single-game total by a SWAC quarterback since the 2013 season.
When Southern coach Dawson Odums looks at Duncan, he sees the look of a seasoned player, despite the fact that Duncan doesn’t quite have a full year of starting experience under his belt: Saturday will mark his 11th career start.
“That’s a guy that has played a lot of snaps,” Odums said. “He understands situations in the game. He’s not going to force balls, and he really does a great job while he’s in the pocket. He can get out of the pocket and extend plays with his legs.
“You’ve got to do a great job of covering receivers from the start to the end of the play. You’ve got to change the looks up and try to discourage him, but it’s kind of difficult because he’s seen so much. He’s really playing well.”
The pressure should be there for Duncan on Saturday. The Jaguars are undefeated in SWAC play and are hosting the Golden Lions for homecoming, meaning a large crowd should be on hand to try to rattle the quarterback.
Monroe isn’t so sure the pressure will be a factor, though. He said Duncan has always played like he’s had a full grasp of the situation.
Duncan didn’t take over as the starter until the second or third game of the year in his lone season with Monroe, when he entered in a game that his team was trailing 21-0 early.
“He came back and led us to 21-21 and we went to overtime,” Monroe said. “We ended up losing in overtime, but ever since then, I saw how he plays in pressure.”
The Jaguars’ defensive success this season has largely been predicated on its ability to force turnovers. Southern just hopes to take advantage of whatever opportunities are presented to it, however slim those chances might be.
“That’ll be the big chess match we have throughout this game Saturday,” Odums said. “Hopefully we can find a way to get the ball out. Every team talks ball security and protecting the football, and he’s done a great job of that.”