After two weeks of fighting above its weight class, the Southern Jaguars find themselves an unsurprisingly 0-2 for the second consecutive season.
The Jaguars fought gamely through the first half against Memphis but were ultimately overcome by the disparity evident in the competing programs.
The Tigers, a Football Bowl Subdivision program from the American Athletic Conference, found their footing in the second half and took control in the 55-24 final, a game in which Football Championship Subdivision Southern trailed by 10 at the half.
The outcome didn’t shock Jaguars coach Dawson Odums. He touted the Tigers as one of the best teams among the FBS crowd and deserving of a Top 25 ranking.
“We have a very good football team,” Odums said. “Up until the fourth quarter, Memphis still had their starters in. That means we’re still pushing and giving them a fight. They (Memphis) don’t believe the game is over. Separation came late third early fourth and then they started pulling players.
“We’re 0-2 for the second year in a row, but we understand what we need to do. We’ll keep fighting to get better.”
Odums isn’t just talking about the current Jaguars team. He used his postgame platform to get on his soapbox once again about the disparity between the haves and the have nots. Earlier in the week he lamented having to play an opponent against which he was overmatched, but that it was a necessity for financial reasons.
On Saturday, he challenged his school and Jaguar Nation to take a step forward and start thinking down the road in areas such as nutrition and weights. Southern’s lack of depth and stamina led to it wilting in the second half in the triple-degree heat.
Starting quarterback Ladarius Skelton suffered from cramps at halftime and missed the first two series of the second half when the home team took control with three consecutive touchdown drives. Southern had one first down and 15 yards in the second half after getting 13 and 243 in the first half.
Odums also talked about the difficulties of developing players like Jordan Lewis, who had a sack, strip, scoop and score of 74 yards. Lewis has immense abilities that could be augmented by proper training and diet and help him become a far better player over the next three seasons.
“Those are the resources these schools have to get players where they want them to be, that’s the difference,” Odums said. “They’ve got a nice training table. They made a commitment to make this one of the better programs in the country. There’s a big difference.
“There’s going to be an HBCU school that will adopt this philosophy. They’re going to start with a training table. It ain’t hard to get one. It’s somebody having a vision to say we have to put up. Football is a program people love at Southern. If you invest massive dollars into it, it will produce.”
Odums said he spoke at length with Memphis coach Mike Norvell about the Tigers’ nutrition, training and practice habits. He said Norvell told him Memphis made a commitment to improve in all of those areas, and that he (Odums) would like to see Southern become the leader among HBCU schools in that direction.
“Those Aggies at North Carolina A&T, they’re starting to talk about Division I,” Odums said of the reigning HBCU national champs. “But there is nobody in HBCU with a fan base like Jaguar Nation. My question is: Why not the Jags?
“Did you see how our fans travel today? Last week? That’s Jaguar Nation. It don’t get no better than that. If our fans are that willing to travel, think what would happen if we made our product better. How much better would all our programs get. If we don’t do it at Southern, someone is going to grasp it and say we’re going to be a better HBCU than anybody else when it comes to football.”