Last week against Mississippi Valley State, Texas Southern decided it wanted to be a running football team.
Quarterback Elijah Odom — the third different starting quarterback used by Texas Southern this season — only threw the ball nine times, but he ran it 23 times for 172 yards and two touchdowns.
The week before, against Grambling, Texas Southern looked completely different, throwing the ball more times (28) than it ran it (27) — a split that does not take into account five Grambling sacks that counted as rushes in the box score.
Part of that had to do with Grambling putting the Tigers in a 27-10 halftime hole, but it also illustrates a season-wide trend.
Put simply, Southern coach Dawson Odums had a hard time trying to develop a feel for what Texas Southern is going to throw at his team Saturday.
When coaches study film of opponents, they look for tendencies — things an opponent does repeatedly that can be used against them. Texas Southern’s tendency, Odums said, is to change entirely.
“It’s hard to prepare because they sort of have a different game plan every week,” Odums said. “All of a sudden, they play Valley and … they’re doing all these different things on offense that they haven’t shown the previous week.”
Texas Southern coach Michael Haywood essentially confirmed that his offensive attack would likely look different Saturday against Southern.
“In that (Mississippi Valley) game plan, that was the best thing for us to do,” Haywood said. “We’re going to have to make some changes this week versus Southern because they play a totally different defense and they do a very good job in it.”
Odums said this uncertainty will make in-game adjustments even more important than usual.
That was the same stance he took when Jackson State made a change at offensive coordinator in the days leading up to its game against Southern.
In that game? The Jaguars gave up a touchdown on the opening drive against an option look that JSU ran for the first time all season, then they clamped down.
1: Strength vs. Weakness.
No SWAC quarterback is playing at a higher level than Southern’s Austin Howard right now. The senior has thrown for nine touchdowns the last two weeks. That is not good news for a Texas Southern team that has been torched through the air this season, giving up a SWAC-worst 8.2 yards per attempt.
2: Do what you do.
Southern coach Dawson Odums played up the strength and physicality of the Texas Southern run defense, but the numbers don’t exactly back him up. Teams that traditionally run the ball well have gashed the Tigers for big days on the ground. Southern should aim to join those ranks this week.
3: Susceptible to the rush.
Depending on how Texas Southern chooses to attack the Southern defense, it could leave itself open to pressure from Southern’s front four. The Tigers have given up at least three sacks in four of their eight games this season, including five against both Grambling and Alabama State.
4: A resurgent weapon.
It should come as no surprise that Howard’s two best games of the season correlated with big performances from tight end Dillon Beard, who has hauled in four touchdowns his last two games after catching none in the first seven. Southern often rides a hot hand, so look for another big day from Beard.
Numbers to Know
90 - Percentage of times opponents have scored when reaching the red zone against Texas Southern.
4 - Interceptions caught by the Texas Southern defense, the least among SWAC teams.
5-0 - Southern coach Dawson Odums’ career record against Texas Southern.