It’s not a sellout. Not yet.
Southern and Jackson State are playing in A.W. Mumford Stadium for the first time since 2007 and only the third time since 1998 - and evidently, fans are interested.
SU spokesman Christopher Jones said that as of Wednesday afternoon, less than 3,000 tickets remained for the game between the Jaguars (1-1, 1-0 Southwestern Athletic Conference) and the Tigers (2-0, 0-0, who square off at 6 p.m. Saturday.
To help encourage sales before game day, the SU ticket office will extend business hours Thursday and Friday. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., though Southern also expects a walk-up crowd Saturday.
The largest home crowd in the 25,500-seat stadium last season was Oct. 9, when 19,762 fans watched Southern beat Mississippi Valley State 38-20 for homecoming.
The last home sellout was Oct. 17, 2009, when Southern beat Fort Valley State 55-23 for homecoming.
With a larger-than-average crowd on the way, SU officials have asked that fans avoid traffic congestion Saturday by coming to campus early.
“That’s the No. 1 word that we want to get out, because we only have three entrances to campus, and they all come from one major artery: Scenic Highway,” said Kevin Johnson, deputy administrator for Southern University Police.
“So if you get there early, that will alleviate a lot of the problems you have with people getting caught in traffic and having everything slow down.”
A note to those approaching from the Harding Boulevard overpass: fans with reserved parking spaces should be in the right lane. Fans who need general parking should be in the left lane.
Late-arriving traffic has caused problems at SU before, although, with dwindling crowds in recent years, it hasn’t been as much of a problem lately. The last major headache came at the 2009 homecoming, when a bumper-to-bumper line of cars stretched along the Harding overpass as late as halftime.
“Again: please come early,” said Johnson, who also advised that other drivers who aren’t headed to campus Saturday should probably avoid the Harding Boulevard exit on I-110, so as not to get stuck in football traffic.
LB Roy ready to play
Junior linebacker Corry Roy, who sat out Southern’s first two games because of a problem with the NCAA Clearinghouse, will be eligible to play Saturday, coach Stump Mitchell said.
Roy, a 6-foot, 215-pound native of Hawaii, transferred to SU this summer from Eastern Arizona College.
Roy’s junior-college coach, John O’Mera, said the linebacker has gotten a green light from the NCAA Clearinghouse - but Southern had not received first-hand confirmation from the Clearinghouse until this week.
“He’ll play,” Mitchell said. “He’s been here since this summer and he practiced with us all through training camp, so he can contribute for us. He’s ready to go.”
Mitchell said the team has not yet heard from the NCAA regarding senior linebacker Corey Ray and sophomore tight end Javon Jordan, whose academic status is in limbo. Southern requested a waiver from the NCAA on both players.
Striving for balance
It’s no secret that Southern’s passing game is far ahead of its running game, just as Mitchell said he expected it to be. Still, the Jaguars have been almost entirely ineffective on the ground, with 63 yards on 45 attempts - an average of only 1.4 yards per carry.
Though the numbers are skewed because of lost yardage on sacks, Mitchell said there’s no doubt about it: His team needs to establish some sort of running game.
And, as usual, it starts up front.
“The offensive linemen - they’re struggling in that area, but they’re doing a fantastic job, for the most part, in pass protection,” Mitchell said. “So it’s not like they don’t want to (succeed). ... We’re going to continue to work on the running game. And when we have to have it, we’ll have it.”
Pressure the QB ...
Last week, after Southern’s 21-6 win against Alabama A&M, members of the secondary praised their teammates on the defensive line, who had three sacks and six hurries of A&M quarterback Deaunte Mason.
Mitchell said Saturday, when the Jaguars face JSU, they’ll probably need to apply more pressure on star quarterback Casey Therriault.
“We missed some sacks (against Therriault) last year - and the thing about him (is), he’s going to make you pay,” Mitchell said. “You can’t afford to miss anything against this guy, because he’ll make you pay.”
SU blitzed Therriault from all angles during last year’s 49-45 loss at Jackson, but the Jaguars only came away with two sacks.
... because the QB is good
There’s a reason defensive coordinator O’Neill Gilbert brought a lot of pressure against Therriault. The reason: Everyone agrees that Therriault is pretty darn good.
As a junior last season, he threw for 3,436 yards and 31 touchdowns. JSU coach Rick Comegy said this week that Therriault has improved since then, gaining a greater knowledge of the offense.
“Just talking with coach (Earnest) Wilson, our offensive coordinator - he knew that Casey had missed some things last year,” Comegy said. “But Casey, right now, has become real sharp at how to make the proper checks and things that need to be done. I’m really pleased with him. He’s come a long way - leaps and bounds.”
Added Mitchell: “The good thing about it (is), when he breaks the pocket to run, he’s doing what you coach most quarterbacks to do - still look downfield for your receivers. And they’ve just got a good thing going there.”
Saturday’s game is a showcase for the SWAC’s top two passing offenses. Southern is first at 297.5 yards per game, followed closely by JSU (277.5). ... The Human Jukebox will begin playing inside Mumford Stadium an hour before kickoff, SU officials said. ... According to the National Weather Service, Saturday calls for mostly sunny skies and a high of 88 degrees, with a low around 68 on Saturday night.