If the Southern football players and coaching staff are really irritated about yet another loss to Alcorn State, they weren’t showing it much during Saturday’s postgame.
Losing 27-13 to the Braves for the ninth time in 10 tries seemed like it hurt less than the loss at Florida A&M a month earlier.
Make no mistake, it hurt, as defensive back Jakoby Pappillion clearly stated afterward. But the Jaguars talked about the game as if they were sure to have another shot, and they might in the SWAC title game.
Even with the loss, the Jaguars are a game ahead of Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the standings two ahead of Prairie View with victories over each, giving Southern the tiebreaker. Grambling, which has won three straight games, still has a shot but would need to beat Alcorn and Southern to do it.
The Jaguars have a home game with Alabama A&M, a visit to Jackson State and the Bayou Classic, but are looking no further than that Homecoming game Saturday
“It was a team loss, not one individual,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said. “The effort and motivation was much better. We’re getting better. We’re a little banged up. We have to persevere, lock in and get ready to play against another good football team.
“We’ll look in the mirror and rise to the occasion. We’ve got to clear our minds, refocus and get ready to play again. We’ve got another good team coming into Baton Rouge.”
The good news was the Jaguars played better than it did the previous week, even despite the six first-quarter penalties. The sticking point remains at quarterback, which Odums said was the difference in the game. Alcorn got consistent quarterback play from Felix Harper, who hurt the Jaguars with downfield throws.
Southern’s offense remains a running game and short pass plan, minus the downfield shots Odums would prefer. The defense played well enough to win but got no help from the offense in the second half. Southern managed only 36 yards in the third quarter when Alcorn was taking control.
“I thought both teams had similar game plans,” Odums said. “They were going to make you make a play in the passing game. They made plays in the passing game. That was the tale of the tape. You could see the gap closing. The difference was in the deep ball. We didn’t make enough plays.”
Southern’s inability to get Ladarius Skelton’s passing issues fixed continues to hold the offense back. Backup Bubba McDaniel has been effective in spots, but his running ability and lack of arm strength allows defenses to play their safeties closer to the line.
Skelton was pulled after his first two series but when he returned in the fourth quarter and the Jaguars down 27-6, he looked like he was playing more relaxed and instinctive. Southern moved quickly down the field and scored. Somehow, Odums and the coaching staff has to figure out how to make Skelton play more relaxed and not suffer from the coaching cliché of paralysis by analysis.
If the Jaguars can’t get Skelton unleashed, it should consider playing him at another position, or moving him around as a running back or wide receiver. He’s probably the best athlete on the team and needs to be on the field making plays.
“We’ll move onto the next one and hopefully we’ll continue to play a lot better,” Odums said. “And I thought we played a lot better in this game than the last time. They are taking the coaching. It’s a tough pill to swallow but we had the same 60 minutes. They made more plays. We know if we want to beat a football team like this it comes down to making plays.”