Eleven months ago, on a warm night at Veterans Memorial Stadium, in the fourth quarter, Southern and Jackson State were really going at it.
Two teams traded touchdowns at warp speed. The fans were into it. The bands were into it.
The whole thing reminded everyone of what makes college football so much fun.
Stump Mitchell, then the Jaguars’ first-year coach, took one other thing from that epic game.
“It’s not over until the final whistle,” he said Tuesday. “There’s no sense in getting happy with 18 seconds to go. Because (the Tigers) came back and won.”
That they did.
Almost one year later, at 6 p.m. Saturday in A.W. Mumford Stadium, Southern (1-1, 1-0 Southwestern Athletic Conference) and Jackson State (2-0, 0-0) square off again.
“Hopefully, (this game) won’t be quite as exciting. Hopefully, we’ll be able to seal the game before that,” Mitchell said. “But we have to come out and play.”
Indeed. The Jaguars will probably have to play better than they did in last week’s 21-6 victory over Alabama A&M, when the offense dozed off and the defense had to hold the fort.
“We’ve got to be more focused than we (were) last week,” wideout LaQuinton Evans said. “We know Jackson is a great team, and we’re a great team. We’ll line up and battle. We’ve got to be focused and ready to go at it.”
They certainly went at it in last year’s thriller in Jackson.
Southern fans remember those final seconds all too well. Or are they trying to forget?
The Jaguars had seemingly pulled the ultimate Houdini act when Evans scored a 64-yard touchdown with 19 seconds remaining, putting SU ahead by four points.
Two plays, 64 yards and 13 seconds later, star quarterback Casey Therriault found wideout Rico Richardson for a shocking 28-yard score. It gave the Tigers an improbable 49-45 win.
Mitchell is no burgeoning film critic, but he said his team plans to gather this week with a DVD and a movie screen. Refreshments are optional.
“We’ll take a look at that game from last year, just to get ticked off,” Mitchell said. “But come Saturday, we’ll be ready. No. 11 (Therriault) is going to make some plays, no question about that. But I think and I hope that in the end, we’ll make more.”
Stumping for a crowd
During his weekly news conference Tuesday, Mitchell all but challenged Jackson State fans to show up Saturday, saying he doesn’t expect JSU to send as many fans to Baton Rouge as Southern typically sends to Jackson.
“It’s that plain and simple,” he said. “They can take me up on that and prove me wrong, because their team (is) going to need their fans making some noise. Because, if they don’t, it’s going to be quiet for them. So I hope they travel, I really do.”
Mitchell heaped praise on the JSU crowd at last year’s game. In describing the atmosphere at Veterans Memorial Stadium, the coach used the word “awesome” eight times in a 24-hour period.
The last time the Tigers played at Mumford, in 2007, some 24,600 fans packed the stadium to watch JSU outlast the Jaguars 32-26.
Southern is still looking for its first home sellout in the 13-game Mitchell era.
Get off the field
Beginning with the second half of Southern’s 33-7 loss at Tennessee State, the Jaguars defense has kept opponents out of the end zone for six consecutive quarters.
Mitchell praised his defenders for their all-out effort Tuesday, but added this caveat: “They’re playing too many plays.”
He has a point. Through two weeks, SU’s defense has played 55 more snaps than its offense. It’s a testament to the defense’s stamina, but it’s also a sign that Southern is allowing too many long drives and third-down conversions (14 so far).
Southern’s defense was on the field for 17:45 in the second half of last week’s game.
It didn’t help that the offense was 3-for-12 on third downs in that second half.
“We need to get better there,” said Mitchell, who added that if the defense stays on the field as it has lately, it will undoubtedly wear down as the season moves along.
LT Chris Browne (ankle) and DE Kadeem Boyd (ankle) were both limited in practice Tuesday. ... According to The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss., Therriault sat out Tuesday’s practice with a sprained ankle, though JSU coach Rick Comegy said he expects Therriault to play against Southern. ... Southern wants fans to wear Columbia blue for Saturday’s game - and evidently the football team will follow along. It will wear royal blue helmets, Columbia jerseys and Columbia pants against JSU.