It is the function of coaches to nitpick, even when a team dominates as Southern University did in its 61-0 victory against NAIA Edward Waters on Saturday at A.W. Mumford Stadium.
That’s because a coach’s job places the scoreboard secondary to incremental improvement each week. While the Jaguars did show some improvement from the Memphis game, the stakes get ramped up with a trip to Florida A&M on tap, followed by the SWAC opener at Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Southern took care of business, and that made coach Dawson Odums happy. But there was enough to make him frown and go back to the drawing board this week.
“We didn’t play to the expectations we have set for our program and that is to play flawless football,” Odums said . “We’re all looking for that perfect game. Flawless means not making bonehead mistakes, and I thought we made some mistakes out there.
“I thought our guys competed at a high level. Some of our guys played at a high level and if you are going to do that, you have to stay mentally locked in and focus on the mental aspect of the game.”
Southern asserted itself physically and dominated the overmatched Tigers with a strong running game that produced 407 yards. After limited success in the passing game, Odums shelved it. Of the 21 passes attempted, only five came in the second half.
Southern was 8 of 8 in scoring on red zone chances and 5 of 8 on third down. Devon Benn had his second best rushing effort with 120 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries.
The defense finally broke through with four turnovers and made things happen with its pass rush. Jalen Ivy forced an intentional grounding in the end zone that became a safety, and Benjamin Harris, Jordan Lewis and Tamaurice Smith picked off passes. Lewis got his second TD of the season with a 95-yard return, which also ended the Tigers biggest scoring threat at the Southern 5-yard line.
On the flip side, Odums was most upset about two 15-yard penalties for overzealousness by his players, calling them glaring. Besides those, Southern was flagged only four times for 27 yards.
Tight end Jeremias Houston was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for an out of bounds scuffle and defensive tackle Robert Square drew a personal foul in the fourth quarter. Odums called them “glaring” mistakes.
“That’s one of the most selfish categories in football, to make plays like that,” Odums said. “Congratulate them for the victory, but we don’t do that. We believe in walking away and playing the game the right way.”
There were some new faces in the lineup. Mason Sims started at left tackle in place of J’Atyre Carter and wide receiver Tyler Brown in place of Timothy Bedford. Brown committed a holding penalty and a false start in the first quarter.
Jaguars quarterback Ladarius Skelton wasn’t at his best, hitting 10 of 19 for only 64 yards. He made several throws into coverage, one of which was nearly intercepted in the end zone.
“They tried to bait me more,” Skelton said. “I’ll catch up and watch film, try to catch the tendencies so I can get better, see what they’re doing and get to my checkdowns. I’m doing better, trying to hang up in the pocket better, seeing my reads and see what the safety is doing.
“We didn’t play to our potential. We did good, what we needed to do. We need to get better.”
The Jaguars also got a little sloppy on defense in the second half, partly attributable to playing reserves.
Special teams was an issue for the third consecutive game. This time, Martell Fontenot missed a 36-yard field goal, his second miss under 40 yards in three tries. Cesar Barajas took over and hit a 33-yarder in the second quarter.
“We look at the intangibles, the moving parts, the penalties, are you in your gap, your fits, precision routes, timing,” Odums said of the coaches film study. “We’re looking at all the little things that get you to 61. Did we get to 61 by doing it a certain way, or by a team helping us get there? We’re looking for a fine-tuned machine. It takes a little while.”