Football coaches see two sides of an open date. Many say they’d rather play a game, especially if their team is playing well.
There’s no doubt how Southern coach Jason Rollins feels about the Jaguars' recent stretch without a game as they prepare to play Texas Southern on Saturday in the Arlington Showdown.
“It couldn’t have come at a better time eight weeks in — four weeks of camp, four games,” Rollins said at his weekly Tuesday video conference. “We have the normal bumps and bruises. It gives us a chance to heal and self-scout, to see our tendencies, what we need to get better at and what to continue doing.”
There is a danger of losing the feel for game speed and breaking routine, especially when the opponent is riding an 18-game conference losing streak like the Tigers. While the Jaguars won their conference opener against Mississippi Valley State, they didn’t finish that game strong.
Multiple defensive injuries kept Southern from playing a clean game, but Rollins hopes to have as many as five defensive starters who didn’t finish that game back. One of those, defensive tackle Camron Peterson, said the week off helped immensely.
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“It’s not (about having) extra fire, it’s what we do every day,” said Peterson, who left the MVSU game with an ankle injury. “We try not to focus on the opponent as much as executing ourselves. It’s consistent work ethic we put toward every aspect of our game. It allowed us to slow things down, clean a lot of things up. We feel very confident.
“We want to focus on finishing, maintaining focus throughout the game. That is one of the keys for us to put this thing together.”
Peterson, safeties Tamaurice Smith and Chase Foster, linebacker Ray Anderson and cornerback Glenn Brown were either limited, didn’t play or didn’t finish the last game. Rollins hopes to have all five back, plus running back Craig Nelson. Rollins said Jerodd Sims, who has yet to play this season, will not return this week.
“He’s not ready; we’re hopeful for next week,” Rollins said. “He’s progressing well, he had a good week of rehab running around and moving, but just not to the point to put him in action.”
Expected to make his third career start is Southern quarterback Bubba McDaniel, who threw for 235 yards and five touchdowns last time out. Rollins said the off week was spent tailoring the offense to what McDaniel does well. He’s not quite the runner Ladarius Skelton is but has better pocket presence.
“He’s solid in all three areas: throw it, run it and thinking the game,” Rollins said. “We’re trying to enhance what he does well.”
Texas Southern is 1-3 and coming off a 69-0 victory against North American, a Division I school in its first season of competition. The Tigers showed big-play potential with its offense, run by freshman quarterback Andrew Body. Last week, Body threw for 205 yards and three touchdowns. Earlier against Rice, he had 353 yards.
Body is 36 of 61 for 582 yards and three touchdowns on the season. Rollins said watching the Tigers on tape gets the staff and players' attention.
“Did you see what they’ve done against other teams?” he asked. “They put almost 500 yards of offense on Rice. Any time you can score 69 points, it’s hard to do that against air.
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"They are very explosive. They can run and throw, great receivers who can get the ball down field. This Andrew Body can make it happen. He reminds me of a young Vince Young the way he moves with the ball in his hands and makes plays.”
Southern moved up one spot in one BOXTOROW HBCU poll and dropped a half slot in another, as released on Monday. The media top 10 had Southern at No. 7, up from No. 8, while the coaches dropped Southern from a tie for No. 6 to No. 7. By virtue of Alabama A&M’s loss to Grambling, Jackson State moved into the No. 1 spot, followed by North Carolina A&T and Prairie View A&M.