The latest loss to Alcorn State was still fresh three days later but Southern is setting its sights on Alabama A&M — and more — four days before the homecoming matchup at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Coach Dawson Odums said his team is buying in to letting go of the program's ninth loss in 10 tries against the Braves. Alabama A&M (5-3, 2-1) presents another explosive offensive challenge for a Southern team (4-4, 3-1) that still has a strong grip on the West Division lead.
“Our team is in a good state of mind,” Odums said Tuesday. “We’ve got to put that one behind us and get ready for the next one. Alabama A&M is a good football team that’s in the hunt. It’s going to be a challenging game. We’ve got to play consistent football and execute for 60 minutes, quit playing in spurts. That’s why we’re sitting at 4-4.”
The Jaguars led Alcorn State 6-3 at halftime this past Saturday and the lead might have been bigger if not for an end zone interception on the game’s first possession. Turnovers and penalties also hurt the Jaguar effort.
“It was a hard loss but we have to get over it,” linebacker Caleb Carter said. “If we keep playing good, we’ll see them (Alcorn) again. Alabama A&M is a very good team. Can’t let one game bring us down.
Backup quarterback Bubba McDaniel, who shared time with starter Ladarius Skelton for the sixth time in eight games, said the focus immediately went to the Bulldogs.
“We’re ready; we had a great day of practice,” McDaniel said. “We have to continue to build on it. Homecoming and all that stuff is not for us. We just want to win Saturday.
“(Alcorn State is) in the past. Nothing we can do about it. We still have goals ahead of us that we can reach.”
Indeed, those goals start Saturday when a victory would put Southern one game from clinching its second consecutive West Division title, which would likely mean a rematch with Alcorn in the SWAC title game. Texas Southern (0-4) has been eliminated from the division race with Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2-2), Prairie View (2-3) and Grambling (1-2) still in the hunt.
Alabama A&A is also in the hunt in the East, tied with Jackson State at 2-1 behind Alcorn (4-0) If the Bulldogs can beat Southern, they will control their own destiny, playing host to Jackson State the following week and visiting Alcorn the week after.
The Bulldogs have plenty going for them with the league’s No. 1 passer, Aqeel Glass, and the second leading rusher Jordan Bentley. Glass has hit 176 of 290 passes for 2,298 yards and 21 touchdowns with seven interceptions. Bentley has rushed for 859 yards and 12 touchdowns and leads the league in scoring with 86 points on 14 touchdowns.
Glass and wide receiver Zabrian Moore (40-796-5) are a tough matchup for the Southern pass defense, which is second-to-last in yards allowed (280.8).
Southern had difficulty stopping Alcorn’s deep passing game. Odums said the Jaguars have to start making plays.
“Being aware and understanding they have to make a play on the ball is the most important thing,” he said. “They have to increase their awareness. We pressure, blitz, but we have to make plays when we have the opportunity.”
Southern’s own quarterback situation continues to evolve. Odums said he won’t determine until Saturday whether Skelton will start for the ninth time in nine games or McDaniel will get his first career start.
“It’s narrowing the gap,” Odums said. “Ladarius and Bubba understand what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it. Whoever is driving has to drive with confidence. They’ve got to know we’re behind them 100%.
“Yesterday Ladarius, (we) let him know Bubba is in the driver’s seat. Today we might have co-pilots. We won’t figure this thing out until we get to Saturday.”
Southern is hoping for some good news from the training room, especially on offense. Running backs Chris Chaney and Craig Nelson missed last week’s game and are questionable, as well as slot receiver Cameron Mackey.
Defensive end Jordan Lewis played sparingly against Alcorn State after missing the Texas Southern game. Odums said Lewis has a better chance than the rest to play this week.
“He practiced a little more today and hopefully he’ll be more ready to go,” Odums said. “He’s is more advanced in his recovery. Chris Chaney, Cameron Mackey and Craig Nelson couldn’t play if the game was today. Hopefully they will be ready by Saturday.”
Freshman running back Jarrod Sims, normally a short-yardage back, got some extra duty. He carried three times for 6 yards.
Brandon Hinton has filled in for Mackey and caught four passes for 32 yards last week. He also had three kickoff returns for 87 yards, including a 43-yarder in the second half.
“It took him a little while to grasp what we’re doing but he has a great work ethic,” Odums said of Hinton. “He catches the ball over the middle. He has to step up in the slot with Mackey being out.”