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Southern University fans cheer as the band marches onto the field during Southern University's fan fest , on Saturday, at A.W. Mumford stadium.

After spending the summer and three weeks of fall camp working on themselves, the Southern football team can finally say the magic word: Troy.

The Jaguars went to work on Thursday at A.W. Mumford Stadium in preparation for the season openers against the Trojans on Sept. 4.

Troy, a Sun Belt member, went 5-6 last season and 3-4 in conference play. Southern coach Jason Rollins used one word to describe the Trojans on both sides of the ball.

“They’re very explosive on offense and defense, a very good team,” Rollins said. “We have to work on open field tackling and making plays in space. They have good athletes and they run a high tempo offense, so we have to get adjusted to the tempo. On offense we have to keep their offense off the field.”

Southern is cut out for playing a ball control game as the leading rushing team in the SWAC for two consecutive seasons. Rollins said Troy’s defense likes to attack upfield. Last season, Troy had 66 tackles for loss and 22 sacks in 11 games.

“They’re very aggressive on defense, attacking,” he said. “They like to create negative yardage plays.”

Troy is led on offense by quarterback Gunnar Watson, who threw for 2,141 yards and 16 TDs with seven interceptions. Running back Kimani Vidal rushed for 516 yards and four scores. Preseason All-Conference linebacker Carlton Martial was the leading tackler with 113, including 10 for losses.

Rollins said depth on his defensive line will be a key.

“In today’s college football with the up-tempo offenses, those guys have to rotate,” he said. “If you watch a lot of our practices we’ve been emphasizing transition and conditioning and moving with pace.”

Rollins said he and the athletic administration are also keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Ida, which could affect practice and the game. It’s expected to make landfall in Louisiana on Sunday night or Monday.

“We have a plan in place for the storm in the gulf,” he said. “We’re still getting it solidified over the next 12-14 hours to see how it tracks. Our administration is seasoned in dealing with hurricanes. They have a good plan in place.”

Rollins said he is still waiting for transfer paperwork to clear on cornerback Terence Dunlap and tight end Danny Jackson. Both are practicing but not yet eligible to play. Dunlap would be playing against his former team if he gains eligibility by next week.

Unity Council

Rollins said he’s been pleased with the leadership built around a 10-member Unity Council with which he meets once a week.

“It’s a very player led team,” he said. “They’ve been through the battles together. You can’t single out one player. They have the heartbeat and pulse of the team. We have weekly meetings on Mondays to outline the week and put out any fires.”

Pandemic restrictions

Southern athletic director Roman Banks said masks will be required for Jaguar home games this fall for fans seated in the outdoor areas of A.W. Mumford Stadium. Fans and attendees sitting in suites or the press box will require a vaccine verification and mask.

HBCU opener

Southern’s opener is still more than a week away but, the HBCU schedule gets underway Saturday with the SWAC/MEAC Challenge between Alcorn State and North Carolina Central at Atlanta’s Center Parc Stadium at 6 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

Bus trips

The Southern University Quarterback Club is sponsoring bus trips to away games this season. The first to the Troy game Sept. will depart from F.G. Clark Activity Center at 6 a.m. For more information, contact Reginald Jarvis at (225) 939-5906 or rjarvis@yahoo.com.