Texas Southern enters its Arlington Football Showdown game against Southern dragging some baggage.
It also could be a big warning sign for the Jaguars.
The Tigers (1-3, 0-1 Southwestern Athletic Conference) had their conference losing streak extended to 18 games in a season-opening loss to Prairie View. But just like winning streaks, losing streaks eventually end.
Southern coach Jason Rollins hopes that isn’t happening this week when the teams clash in Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Texas Southern is coming off last week’s 69-0 demolition of North American University, a first-year Division I program still finding its feet. The Jaguars present a significantly tougher challenge, but there’s nothing like getting a taste of victory to make a team hungry for more.
“It’s huge, psychology of winning,” Texas Southern coach Clarence McKinney said. “When you go week to week and losing when you had an opportunity to win, it does something to your psyche. When you get that win it allows you to have a sense of confidence and play with it going into the next week. That’s where we are.”
Last week’s victory snapped a 19-game overall losing streak on the field. (The Tigers were awarded a 2-0 forfeit by Alcorn State in the spring season.) The conference streak dates back to 2017, the last win a 24-10 victory against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Nov. 18.
Football coaches see two sides of an open date. Many say they’d rather play a game, especially if their team is playing well.
Rollins knows streaks count for nothing on game day. The Jaguars had to rally to hold off an eventual 0-11 Texas Southern team, 28-21, in 2019. Last year’s game was close at halftime before Southern blew the Tigers out, 51-23. McKinney has been trying to fix myriad issues and finally has some progress to tout.
“If you watch the film, they get your full attention,” Rollins said. “Last year’s game was tight, and the year before we won by a touchdown. It’s a conference game. Any given Saturday you can’t take anyone lightly, just like they can’t take us lightly. They’re coming in to win a game just like we are.”
One asset the Tigers didn’t have last year was freshman Andrew Body, who threw for 205 yards and three touchdowns last week. Last year’s Tigers played two quarterbacks without getting consistency from either one, but Body is the guy this time.
“He’s still a freshman. He’s going to make a lot of mistakes to the point we have to live with those mistakes and allow him to grow,” McKinney said. “Experience is the best teacher, and each week we expect him to get a little bit better. It's our team task to keep him healthy, and it’s his job to learn the things he needs to learn to keep us in the right direction.”
Body didn’t play in the opener, but he got his first start against Rice and responded by hitting 19 of 35 passes for 353 yards. He also rushed for a team-high 62 yards and scored two TDs in the 48-34 loss.
Last week, the Tigers took another step. Body got plenty of help, especially from wide receiver Ke’Lenn Davis, who caught five passes for 117 yards and touchdowns of 59 and 8 yards.
“The locker room was like it’s never been since I’ve been here,” McKinney said. “The guys were excited about finally getting a win, not just a win but playing well while doing so.”
The Tigers are strong up front defensively, which should be a challenge for the Southern running game. Run-stopping linebacker Tarik Cooper (6-0, 253) is assisted by an aggressive and physical defensive line, as well as strong safety Andre Gibbs. Cooper (18) and Gibbs (16) are the team’s top tacklers.
The Southern University starting quarterback job has changed hands, and during last week’s open date, Bubba McDaniel tightened his grip on the job.
“We’ve got to take care of the ball, not give them extra opportunities, move the chains on third down and score when we have those opportunities,” McKinney said. “If we do, the offense will give our team a chance to be successful.
“They’ve got those big linemen up front, quarterbacks that run the ball well, running backs that run the ball well. It’s going to be a physical game up front. We’re used to that from Southern.”