It isn’t Homecoming, but after starting the season 0-2, Southern returning to A.W. Mumford at 6 p.m. Saturday against Edward Waters College has that feel to it.
The game has been designated as the second annual Pete Richardson Classic and the iconic Jaguar coach himself will head up the welcoming committee as part of the festivities for the team’s home opener.
In an effort to boost home attendance, Southern athletic director Roman Banks is asking fans to come early and “pack the building” in hopes of giving the program a chance to add a fifth home game. Southern plays at A.W. Mumford four times this season out of 12 games.
“It’s an exciting time for us,” Banks said. “We’ve taken our show on the road and now we’re coming back to our home turf to defend it with pride.”
The players, coming off an improved performance at Memphis are happy to get off the road and play on the turf field where Jaguar teams are 12-1 since it was installed.
“It feels good to be back and home and we want to get a ‘W’ to go 1-0,” defensive back Jakoby Pappillion said. “Home field is everything, having your fans behind you.
Said wide receiver Hunter Register: “It will be good to play in front of family and friends. The school is excited for us. They saw how we competed against Memphis and we got them behind our back.”
Southern hung tough against unbeaten Memphis, dominating the ball in the first half and scoring 17 points before Memphis asserted itself in the second.
The Jaguars face less of a powerhouse in 0-1 Edward Waters of the NAIA’s Mid-South Conference. The Tigers lost 26-20 to Morehouse in their season opener last Saturday.
Jaguars coach Dawson Odums is hoping his team, in going from their most prominent opponent to perhaps their least known, will continue to put forth the same effort. The early returns are good.
“Today was a great practice, great attitude, one of our better Tuesday practices this year,” Odums said. “You can see they’re getting the message.
“The biggest thing is focusing on us and understanding any given Saturday we can be beaten. It’s not about how we prepare or what we do it’s about the expectations we set for our program. Our expectations are to play hard every snap out there regardless who the opponent is. It’s our job as coaches to make sure they have that mindset.”
Odums liked his team’s improvement last week. Southern started the game with a five-play, 75-yard touchdown drive without mistakes that gave the Jaguars a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game. They followed that up with a 17-play drive that ended in a 4-yard scoring pass from quarterback Ladarius Skelton to tight end Jeremias Houston.
Skelton played only five more plays because of cramping. Odums is confident that is in the past and hoping Skelton and the offense can continue to improve.
“That’s the offense we hope to see going forward,” he said of the Jaguars’ success in the first half. “We’ll gauge it (Skelton) and see how it goes. It’s not about his conditioning. He perspires a lot. We have a plan for him at halftime.”
Odums expects the punt issues that led to one being blocked and another tipped, will be solved by the return of punter Cesar Barajas, who missed the first half, and some adjustments to punt protection.
Defensively, the Jaguars will face a spread offense led by dual threat quarterback Roshard Branch.
“They threw the ball a lot in their last game and they threw the ball downfield,” he said.
“The challenge is going to be up front on the offensive and defensive lines. We’re working on having the right mindset for this game. Just work on Southern, if we do that, everything else will take care of itself.”
Still missing, coming back
The Jaguars will be without both starting cornerbacks Robert Rhem and Glenn Brown for the second consecutive week. Rhem injured his shoulder against McNeese State and missed last week’s game. Brown missed the first two games with an off-the field issue, Odums said. Wide receiver Tim Bedford, who injured an ankle last week, should be ready Saturday. Defensive end Tyran Nash will be available to play for the first time this season after undergoing off-season surgery.
Punt return game
Southern forced only one punt last week with Brandon Hinton letting it roll, adding 15 yards to the kick. Odums said the team has continued to work on it and may get some help there later in the season when wide receiver Kendrick Jones is expected to get healthy. The Jaguars muffed three punts in the opener against McNeese, resulting in two lost fumbles.
The 24 points Southern scored against Memphis were the most against an FBS school in the 15 such games. Southern scored 21 each against Tulane (2016), UL-Monroe (2016) and New Mexico (2012).
Southern will hold its second annual Extravaganza fundraiser at 7p.m. Friday at the Felton G. Clark Activity Center Friday. Feature performers include The Original Lakeside and Tyree Neal. Call 771-3171 for more information.