If recent history is a useful indicator, the A.W. Mumford Stadium scoreboard operator might be busy at Saturday’s game between Southern and Prairie View A&M.
The teams have combined to score 346 points in their past four meetings (86.5 points per game), including barnburners like the 62-59 Southern win in 2013 and the 47-42 Prairie View win in 2015.
Only once in the past four seasons has either Prairie View or Southern failed to crack 34 points in a game; the Panthers were held to 24 points in 2014.
The reason, Southern coach Dawson Odums said, was obvious.
“It’s because you had some really explosive football players and two very good offenses,” Odums said Monday on the Southwestern Athletic Conference coaches teleconference.
Perhaps that is why both Odums and his counterpart, Prairie View A&M coach Willie Simmons, stressed the importance the defenses will play in Saturday’s 4 p.m. matchup.
Simmons pointed out two of Southern’s biggest stars as an example. Jaguars defensive end Aaron Tiller turned in one of the best games of his life in Prairie View, Texas, last season, with four sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss.
Simmons also said Southern cornerback Danny Johnson “is the best defensive back in the conference and probably one of, if not the best in the entire country at this level.”
“They have some really good guys on that side of the ball,” Simmons said. “It’s going to be a challenge for us offensively to block them, to protect our quarterback, to make some plays out wide in the passing game and also to establish the run game.”
Odums said his offense is difficult to prepare for by design. It has tried to make up for the departure of talents such as Lenard Tillery and Willie Quinn with volume, using several playmakers instead of focusing one one or two standouts.
The hope is that teams expend mental energy preparing for the numerous ways the Southern offense can hurt them. The problem, Odums said, is that Prairie View’s offense is similar in that regard.
“They test you mentally with shifts and motions,” he said. “You’ve got to make some adjustments, you’ve got to have communication, you’ve got to get lined up; they’re going to tempo you.
“It’s a lot of factors going on. Whichever defense settles down and plays well from start to finish, that’s the team that is going to win the football game.”
Howard earns weekly honor
Southern quarterback Austin Howard was named the SWAC offensive player of the week after his 245-yard, 5 touchdown performance against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Odums said Monday that Howard is as healthy as he has been all season, and that was reflected in Monday’s performance.
“He’s healthy, he’s playing well, he’s at probably 97, 98 percent,” Odums said. “Each week, he’s getting better. He’s looking like the Austin Howard we expected him to be at the end of the season.”
Howard chalked up season highs in touchdowns (five, matching a career high), completion percentage (68.8 percent) and pass efficiency (184.6).
Despite not throwing his first touchdown pass until Week 4 against Alcorn State, Howard ranks second among SWAC quarterbacks with 11 passing touchdowns.
Wrong passion, wrong energy
Having had a day to digest his team’s 47-40 win against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Odums chalked up his team’s poor second half (Southern was outscored 26-13) to a poor mindset.
“We didn’t come out of halftime with the right energy,” Odums said. “The temperature dropped a little bit, and I think we got a little complacent. We didn’t come out of halftime with the right passion and the right energy to go ahead and put the team away.”
In the rankings
Grambling beat Texas Southern 50-24 on Saturday for its seventh consecutive win. The Tigers were rewarded with a season-best No. 13 ranking in the STATS FCS Top 25.
The Tigers were ranked No. 15 in last week’s poll.
The road team has won the past three meetings between Southern and Prairie View A&M … With that said, on Monday’s SWAC teleconference, Simmons called Baton Rouge “one of the toughest places in all of FCS football to play.”