Although very pleased with his team’s 30-14 victory over Alcorn State last week, SU coach Stump Mitchell made it clear Monday that if his Jaguars want to win back-to-back games for the first time this season, they’d better improve two key components: turnovers and special teams.
For much of this season, those areas have been a liability.
The Jaguars rank 106th in the nation with 22 giveaways. Only two Southwestern Athletic Conference teams, Grambling (23) and Jackson State (33) have turned over the football more often.
Last week in A.W. Mumford Stadium, two turnovers prevented SU from possibly turning a comfortable lead into a full-fledged blowout.
Southern went ahead 20-0 in the first quarter and was never in danger of losing, but Alcorn actually outscored the Jaguars 14-7 in the second half. That’s been a recurring theme this season for SU, which has been outscored 53-19 in the fourth quarter this season.
In the third quarter, shoddy pass protection led to an Alcorn sack of quarterback Dray Joseph, who fumbled after getting hit from behind. Later, Joseph was late on a deep throw to the sideline, and the Braves’ Casey Freeman intercepted him.
Both turnovers happened in Alcorn territory.
On special teams, Manuel Canto was 1-for-2 on field-goal attempts, though his missed attempt was from 45 yards away (it would’ve easily surpassed his career long of 36). Canto was also 3-for-4 on extra-point attempts; the lone miss caromed off an upright.
More troubling, however, were the punt and kickoff units, which allowed Alcorn’s only two touchdowns. The first score was by Terrance Lewis, who returned a kickoff 85 yards. The second score was by linebacker Robert Gainwell, who charged through the line of scrimmage, easily blocked a punt and returned it 30 yards.
There is however, good news for the Jaguars: Special teams have been even more adventurous for Texas Southern. Opponents have blocked two field goals and three punts, and TSU has botched several snaps in punt formation — one of which led to a safety for Mississippi Valley State last week.
“But we have to go out and we have to eliminate some of our turnovers,” Mitchell said. “We have to play better on special teams, which has also been an Achilles’ heel of those guys. So we’ll just try to prepare, and hopefully get the best from our players.”
Southern (3-5, 3-3 SWAC) faces Texas Southern (3-5, 1-5) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Delmar Stadium in Houston.
Next round of suspensions
Senior receiver LaQuinton Evans had a nice game against Alcorn, catching five passes for 100 yards and a touchdown.
He’ll follow that performance by cheering on teammates from a distance.
Evans was among the 15 Southern players and 25 Arkansas-Pine Bluff players who were suspended by the SWAC after the teams’ postgame fight Oct. 15.
The SWAC agreed to spread suspensions over three weeks, allowing Evans to play against Alcorn. Now, he’ll sit.
“It is weird, knowing you’ve got to miss a game next week. It’s one thing if you miss a game with an injury,” Evans said. “But (this is) something I could’ve avoided.”
Evans and six others — linebacker Jamie Payton, cornerback LaMarkius Pettaway, running back Byron Williams, defensive tackle Kenneth Hill Jr., safety Levi Jackson and running back Kaelan Mayfield — are suspended for Saturday’s game.
Payton, Pettaway and Williams are all serving the second part of two-game suspensions. The others are serving one-game suspensions.
A rundown of bus trips for the game in Houston this week:
6TH MAN CLUB: The bus leaves at 7 a.m. Saturday and returns immediately after the game. The cost is $110 per person and includes a game ticket and pregame tailgating. For information, call Anna Jones at (225) 907-7212, Freddie Green at (225) 388-9403, or Elijah Wilkinson at (225) 355-9249.
SU UNIFICATION ORGANIZATION: The bus leaves at 9 a.m. Saturday and returns immediately after the game. The cost is $90 per game and includes a game ticket. For information, call Leo Williams at (225) 355-6886 or (225) 357-3833.
BLUE & GOLD CLUB: The bus leaves at 8 a.m. Saturday, and the trip includes an overnight stay in Houston after the game. The cost for the bus trip is $100 and includes a game ticket and tailgating; the hotel cost is $85 and is payable directly to the hotel. For information, call Craig Pierre at (225) 324-7234 or Robert Square at (225) 931-4052.
Texas Southern has won back-to-back meetings against Southern, including last year’s 54-7 blowout at A.W. Mumford Stadium and a stunning 30-25 comeback win at Delmar Stadium in 2009. ... Despite committing 14 penalties last week, SU ranks fourth in the SWAC in penalty yards per game (79.9). Texas Southern ranks ninth (100.1 yards per game).