With two days to reflect on yet another lost opportunity, Southern football coach Stump Mitchell allowed this much about the Jaguars’ three-point home loss to Prairie View: It was a good game. A close game.
But close doesn’t cut it.
“I’m not here to play good games,” the second-year coach said. “I’m here to win games. That’s my mission. That’s what I was brought here to do, and that’s what I’m going to be judged on.”
Of course, based on recent results, the judgments aren’t kind. In the past four weeks, SU has lost three games by a total of 12 points.
The latest heartbreaker was similar to the previous two: Despite a gritty effort from the defense and so-so special teams, the Jaguars ultimately did themselves in with three turnovers and an offense that went cold in the second half.
Immediately after the latest loss, players were visibly shaken and upset, practically unable to comprehend that they’d dropped another heartbreaker.
So what happens now? The Jaguars (2-4, 2-2 Southwestern Athletic Conference) go on the road for a game at Arkansas-Pine Bluff (3-3, 2-2) at 6 p.m. Saturday in Golden Lion Stadium.
“I think (the players) come back individually on Tuesday and bust their butt,” Mitchell said. “And I think they will all come out Saturday ready to play.”
And believe it or not, Southern still has something for which to play.
Though the Jaguars can’t play in this year’s SWAC Championship, they’re still in the race for first place in the Western Division, though they’re now a little further behind. SU and UAPB are tied for second place, now 1.5 games behind Prairie View.
“Last year, you had a little more parity on the Eastern side. This year, that parity is on the Western side,” UAPB coach Monte Coleman said. “You’ve got Prairie View, you’ve got us and you’ve got Southern, who’s in the top three. It’s a matter of who takes care of their business from here on out.”
Only two weeks ago, the Golden Lions were atop the Western Division, and they were cruising. UAPB was fortified by a strong defense and a robust ground game led by Adrian Moore, an Arkansas transfer who leads the conference with 483 rushing yards.
Then the Lions melted down in the fourth quarter at Alabama A&M, giving up 21 unanswered points in a 28-27 loss. Last week, they were thoroughly humbled in the second half of a 48-10 loss at Jackson State.
This week, they return to Pine Bluff after four consecutive road games.
They’ve lost two in a row. Southern has lost three of its past four.
Now, if they want to stay in the Western Division race, they have to get back in gear.
“We have to be able to capitalize on some situations and learn from them,” Mitchell said. “But we have to believe in ourselves.”