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Southern matched up against Troy for the season opener in Troy, Alabama Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. Troy defeated the Jaguars 55-5.

Southern coach Jason Rollins said he and the Jaguars are “well aware” of Miles College, their opponent in Saturday’s Pete Richardson Classic at A.W. Mumford Stadium.

Even if they weren’t, the Golden Bears rang an alarm bell last week by taking Alabama State into overtime before falling 14-13 on a blocked PAT.

“They’re a well-coached football team, aggressive on defense,” Rollins said this week. “They like to blitz and bring a lot of pressure no matter where they are on the field. They’ll go zero coverage and bring seven guys. Offensively, they like to control the ball, slow it down and run the ball. They control the clock and limit your possessions.”

In other words, Miles forces its opponents to beat them because they aren’t going to beat themselves. The Golden Bears limited Alabama State to 22 first half plays and one touchdown in regulation and won the turnover battle 2-0. The Bears’ offense produced 17 first downs and 170 yards rushing.

It’s a testament to the program former North Alabama three-time, All-American defender Reginald Ruffin has built in his nine previous seasons. Ruffin, who took over athletic director duties three years ago, was used to success when he played under Bobby Wallace, whose teams won three Division II national titles.

“There was a commitment from the administration to do it right,” Ruffin said. “We got assistant coaches and recruiting budgets, and all the resources to do what is good for the student athletes. We had some facility upgrades to put us on a level playing field.”

Ruffin has made the most of his 36 scholarships. He’s won three Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles and when it comes to scheduling, he seeks out the best teams he can find.

“I came from successful program at North Alabama coach Wallace,” Ruffin said. “We beat Division I Louisiana-Lafayette in 1997. I’ve been fortunate to have some longevity on my staff. Five have been with me for nine years and I lost two of them last year. It’s been a blessing having those guys here and doing the right thing.

“We try to play up, play the best and give our kids a chance to match up against quality opponents. Southern is that opponent.”

Ruffin and Miles made a believer out of Alabama State.

“We knew they had nothing to lose,” Hornets coach Donald Hill-Eley said. “We knew they would try anything because they were playing up. But they came in and ran the football and had success with that, milked the clock with a slow break from the huddle. It was a well-coached football game. Coach Ruffin has done a great job for years. They have good players and good coaches.”

Southern will have to contain All-SIAC running back Donte Edwards, who rushed for 107 yards on 20 carries last week. The Bears threw only nine passes and completed three. UAB transfer quarterback Jalen Parker came off the bench to throw a 16-yard TD pass to Marcus Lodge to tie the game.

Defensively, linebacker Andrew Gaylor had 11 tackles and Cameron Snead had two fumble recoveries with one forced fumble. The Bears had seven tackles for loss.

“We ain’t the biggest or fastest but our defensive line does a good job holding its own,” Ruffin said.

“On offense, we take what defense gives us. Alabama State took away things we wanted to do with our passing and protection schemes. We didn’t want to turn it over. They were blitzing and causing havoc. Southern is doing the same thing.”