In the aftermath of a 35-17 win against rival Jackson State on Saturday, Southern coach Dawson Odums wanted to see more.
Though his team was firmly in control of the game for most of the final three quarters, Odums did not find the Jaguars' effort to be up to his standards.
“I don’t think, in all three phases throughout the 60 minutes of the football game, they played to my liking as the head football coach,” Odums said.
Odums said several times he was happy his team emerged with a win but saw too many things that need to be cleaned up for his team to attain its ultimate goal of reaching the conference championship game.
Without the benefit of watching the game film, Odums thought his defense “missed entirely too many tackles.”
“That’s attitude,” Odums said. “Guys have got to be willing to stick their face in there and make tackles. Today, we didn’t do a very good job with our angles, and we gave them a lot more yards than they should’ve had.”
Jackson State finished with just 254 offensive yards, but 170 of those —more than two-thirds — came on six explosive plays.
“How much better would we be if we just tackled?” Odums said. “That’s the challenge: finding something every week and making a correction, challenging your football team to get better and play more consistent football. That’s the greatest challenge in this game.”
Odums also was displeased with a special teams unit that had two costly errors — a snap that sailed over punter Taylor Merritt’s head, giving Jackson State the ball deep in Southern territory, and Southern’s third blocked field goal of the season.
Those are, Odums said, “blunders that this late in the season you shouldn’t have.”
Offensively, Odums thought his club should’ve converted more of its third-down opportunities; Southern went 6 of 15. He also thought his offense left points on the field for the second straight week.
The general theme of his displeasure afterward was that he wanted his team to “chase greatness,” something he did not see against winless Jackson State.
He was looking for polish, and he didn’t find it. Instead of greatness, the word he used to describe Saturday’s win was “mediocre.”
“It’s great to get a win, but when you have high expectations for your program, this mediocre performance doesn’t sit well,” Odums said. “ I’m happy for our guys that we got a win, but we’ve got to play better, and I expect them to play better.
“That’s what it’s all about. If we’re going to be a good football team, we’ve got to chase greatness. The way we played today wasn’t great. It was good enough to beat a bad football team. That’s not how we want to play. We want to dominate bad football teams; we want to beat good football teams.”
If Odums didn’t harp on this, even in a winning effort, he said Southern would not achieve its goal of being a championship football team.
“He has that right to have that attitude toward that, because we should’ve put up more points than what we did,” said quarterback Austin Howard. “We came out with a victory, he’s happy about that, but we’ve got to raise our level of play.”
Howard reaches milestone, avoids injury
With a 27-yard completion to Cameron Mackey in the second quarter, Howard became the third quarterback in Southern history to pass for 8,000 yards in his career.
He finished the day with 175 yards, giving him 8,156 in his career and moving him past Bryant Lee for second place on Southern’s all-time career passing list.
Howard needs 590 passing yards to break Dray Joseph’s Southern record of 8,745 passing yards. He needs six passing touchdowns to break Joseph’s career mark in that category, too.
He had a bit of a scare Saturday when he came up limping after an 11-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Howard exited for a series but came back in to direct a 62-yard touchdown drive.
“When I dove, he kind of caught my legs … and when I got up, it just hurt,” Howard said. “But I’m good for the most part; I bounced back. As long as I’m up, my team knows I’m alright.”