The Southern Jaguars start their next 1,000 games in style with the second annual Pete Richardson Classic, doubling as the team’s home opener, against Edward Waters College at 6 p.m. Saturday in A.W. Mumford Stadium.
The Jaguars dropped the 1,000th game in program history at Memphis but come home on an optimistic note, showing marked improvement.
Coach Dawson Odums would like to kick start the rest of the season with something in the win column this time.
“Now we have a chance to open up at home where we’ve always been successful and get a football team mentally locked in and take some success,” Odums said. “You need that. From here on out we’re playing for something we said at the beginning of the season we wanted to play for.”
Edward Waters (0-1) lost its season opener last week to Morehouse College, 26-20. The Tigers were outgained 324-269, had two quarterbacks sacked a combined five times and had three turnovers.
Running back Maliek Stephenson ran eight times for 22 yards and a touchdown and caught two passes for 20 yards. Tyberious Horne had five catches for 114 yards and returning ace receiver David Beeks caught one for 51.
Quarterbacks Roshard Branch and Jayshawn Fields combined to completed 14 of 24 passes for 237 yards with one interception.
The Jaguars get to play the part of the heavy favorite this time on the field where they are 23-8 in Odums’ seven seasons. Odums said regardless of the opposition, the Jaguars want to play to their own expectations.
“Coming home is a blessing for us,” he said. “Since I’ve been head coach our home record is good. We’ve done a good job defending the turf. We’re 12-1 since we installed the turf. It’s not about our opponents, we have a standard we challenge our guys to play at regardless of who we play, home or away.”
Southern stayed put in both HBCU polls at No. 4 in the coaches rankings and No. 6 in the media poll despite falling to 0-2 with a 55-34 loss to Memphis.
North Carolina A&T remained in the top spot in both rankings, getting all 18 first-place votes from the coaches. The Aggies lost to Duke, 45-13. In the media poll, No. 3 Alcorn State and No. 4 South Carolina State each received two first place votes.
Odums emphasized ball security and the Jaguars got the message. After losing five fumbles in the season opener, Southern had zero turnovers against Memphis. There were no fumbles or muffed punts, either. Of course, the Jaguars now have some work to do on punt protection after having one blocked and one tipped.
“Ball security is always the emphasis but there was a sense of urgency this week,” Odums said. “They (Memphis) did a great job game-planning for that (punt rush). As long as it’s on film I tell the guys we can make corrections. I was pleased with how the guys prepared and the mindset coming in.”
Another indication of improvement was with penalties. After getting flagged nine times for 70 yards against McNeese State, Southern had only five for 26 yards Saturday. All were the kind Odums hates the most, pre-snap penalties for false starts and illegal formations.
“That’s more to our liking,” he said. “That’s the kind of discipline our team played with.”
Southern running back and former John Curtis Patriot Devon Benn showed his resilience taking a big hit from Memphis defensive back Austin Hall on an incomplete swing pass in the first quarter. Quarterback Ladarius Skelton lobbed the ball to the left side and Hall had a free shot to break up the play against Benn, who was slow to get up and left the game.
Benn returned in the second quarter for two more carries and finished with four for 36 yards.
When asked about Benn’s toughness, Odums responded, “Where did he play high school football?” When the reporter said “John Curtis,” Odums replied, “’Nuff said.”