HOUSTON — Two minutes before halftime, with his team trailing by 10, Texas Southern quarterback Elijah Odom dropped back to pass.
He never saw Southern defensive end Aaron Tiller coming.
Tiller stripped the ball from Odom and recovered the fumble at the TSU 36-yard line. The turnover led to a Southern field goal and kept TSU scoreless at halftime.
While the SU offense has put up its share of numbers this season, on Saturday night at BBVA Compass Stadium it was the Jaguars defense that made a statement in a 33-7 win over Texas Southern.
“We were pretty dominant today,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said. “Defensively we kept them off the board, and I’m pleased because that is how you win football games.
“You saw a good football team take advantage of a bad football team’s miscues.”
SU had as many sacks (three) as TSU completed passes.
The Jaguars, who were allowing an average of 376 yards per game coming in, only gave up 212. SU only allowed eight first downs and held TSU to 1 for 11 on third-down conversions.
“We take pride in getting off the field on third down, and that is what we did today,” Tiller said. “We finished the game. Don’t get too high. Don’t get too low. We just came out and finished the game.”
Tiller came into the game leading the Southwestern Athletic Conference with 7.5 sacks. He left Houston with two more. Kyle McGregor added a third sack for the Jaguars.
“(Tiller) understood what is at stake today. He has played that way all year,” Odums said. “He has the heartbeat and plays hard and when you play hard in this game, you get rewarded.”
Despite trailing for most of the game, TSU only attempted nine passes, completing just three.
Southern (7-3, 5-1) held TSU (1-8, 1-4) to 7 yards passing and no points through the first three quarters. Senior Danny Johnson, McGregor and CeaJae Bryant led the team with five tackles each.
“We played our reads and were physical,” SU cornerback Demerio Houston said. “If they don’t score, they can’t win.
“When our D-line gets pressure, it gets the ball out quicker, and we will be on top so we can make plays on the ball.”
Southern set the tone early, with the Jaguars holding TSU to three-and-outs on four of its first five possessions.
It was more of the same in the second half. Southern forced seven TSU punts and stopped the Tigers an eighth time on downs.
The only points Southern allowed were in the fourth quarter on an 11-yard Odom run, which followed TSU’s biggest offensive play of the game, a 43-yard pass to DeAndre Angelle.
“We have our ups and we have our downs,” Odums said. “We make tackles and we miss tackles, but the biggest thing we do is overcome that with great effort and get more hats around the football.”
With a showdown with Grambling looming in the Bayou Classic on Nov. 25, the Jaguars defense hopes to carry its momentum into a big game with the SWAC West division championship on the line.
“I like the heartbeat of this football team, and I like the direction we are going,” Odums said. “I’m proud of my team.”