WHAT WE LEARNED
For one, we learned that Southern won’t be applying for Conference USA membership any time soon. The Jaguars were outscored 91-17 in their back-to-back games against what could be two of the best teams the Conference-USA has to offer in Southern Miss and UTSA. What is not new information is all the advantages those Football Bowl Subdivision (read: Southern Miss and UTSA) schools have over Football Championship Subdivision (read: Southern) schools, but these two weeks should be a clear indication of the gap that exists between classifications. On a more practical level, we learned that the Southern defense was still capable of forcing mass amounts of turnovers in a hurry. The Jaguars forced four turnovers in the final 30 minutes.
You want the good, or the bad? How about the bad first: Southern has been absolutely atrocious in the first half the past few weeks. Southern only gained 76 yards in the first half. The last two weeks. Combined. That’s not going to do the trick. Not only did it result in Southern not even sniffing scoring range, it put the defense in a compromised position of being on the field for much of the first half while frequently defending a short field. Now, the good (and there was some of that): Southern’s ball-hawk defense made an appearance in the second half, forcing four turnovers. That’s now eight forced turnovers in three games for the Jaguars. If they can keep that pace going against SWAC teams, it’ll give their offense time to find itself. The second half, in general, was much better this week.
Yes, Southern lost ugly while playing up in classification for the second consecutive week. But don’t write this team off just yet. Next week against Alcorn State should provide a clearer indication of where Southern is as a team. Now, there are clearly some causes for concern. This offense looks completely lost without senior quarterback Austin Howard, and dropping back down to SWAC defenses isn’t going to just suddenly make things run smoother. The defense gives up an inexplicable amount of big plays in which opposing players are simply unaccounted for. But, both of those are fixable problems. Howard, at some point, is going to be healthy enough to play football. And if the defense could just iron out these lapses into focus, it has potential to really be outstanding.