Southern vs USM

Southen coach Dawson Odoms watches his team prepare before their game with the University of Southern Mississipppi in Hattiesburg on Saturday.

Rick Guy

The question posed to Herb Edwards was almost unfair. After all, he was a handful of minutes removed from a 45-0 loss to Southern Miss, a defeat so fresh the Southern Miss band had barely wrapped its post-game performance.

What can you take away from a game like this?, he was asked.

“Don’t lose 45-0,” he responded.

It was a frustrating evening for Southern. Little seemed to go right, especially when the Jaguars had the ball. By the time the first quarter was over, Southern trailed by 28 points and Southern Miss was threatening again.

But there are lessons, even in frustration. The Jaguars are assured of only 11 games this season, so they can’t waste the useful things, especially when considering they are playing up a level in classification again Saturday at UT-San Antonio.

Take the mistakes and learn from them. Take what you did well and build on it. That is the approach Southern took this week.

“What else do we need to get better?” defensive back Danny Johnson said.

Start with the positives, of which, Southern admitted, there weren’t many. But there was enough to build on and carry into this week.

The defense, which yielded 316 yards and four touchdowns in the first half, tightened up in the final 30 minutes.

Although coach Dawson Odums said some of it could be attributed to the Golden Eagles easing off the gas in the second half, Southern’s defense kept Southern Miss out of the end zone and nearly halved its allowed yardage from the first half.

That last 30 minutes is what defensive end Aaron Tiller focused on this week. They were a competitive 30 minutes he hopes carry over into the UTSA game.

“I just take away the positives,” said defensive end Aaron Tiller. “The negatives are going to be there, but if you harp on the negatives, you’ll never grow.”

And that growth needs to be immediate, Tiller said, with the Jaguars facing another Football Bowl Subdivision team this week. He said the positive effort in the second half last week is proof Southern can hang in there if his teammates allow that belief to take hold.

“Don’t let the name fool you,” Tiller said. “It’s still football. Whatever we do, we can’t go into it thinking we’re the little brothers of the game. We’ve got to go out and fight like we did in the second half and play a complete football game.”

As defensive back Jamar Mitchell put it, “You’re not here just for a check; you’re actually trying to compete.”

Although Southern does not want to spend its time dwelling on them, there are lessons to be found in the negatives too.

Southern’s offensive ineffectiveness last week — zero points and 140 yards — can be traced to a number of different things. It was facing one of the best defenses it will play this season with a pair of freshmen taking reps at quarterback.

But the Jaguars weren’t making excuses. They looked back at the film and saw plays there to be made. Southern just didn’t make them.

“Going into this week, it’s just execution,” said offensive lineman Christian Rodriguez. “Execution is really the key to this game. Don’t shoot ourselves in the foot. … We shot ourselves in the foot plenty of times.”

Southern watched a repeat session of itself failing to cash in on its opportunities offensively with intent. Don’t ignore the mistakes, but identify and fix them.

“Everything’s a lesson,” Rodriguez said. “You can’t look at anything negatively. You can’t let one game determine your whole season.”

There’s also that other negative, the residual feeling, the one that was still so sharp for Edwards when he was asked what the team can carry over into this week.

Southern isn’t ignoring that, either.

“You need to take the pain from the game and bring it to the next game,” junior safety Andrea Augustine said. “We need to remember what that felt like. We need to remember what we were doing wrong. … Just stay focused, and bring the pain that we felt from this game to the next game so we don’t feel that again.”

Follow Luke Johnson on Twitter, @ByLukeJohnson.