Southern coach Dawson Odums said there’s no magic touch for playing well coming out of an open date, although the results say he’s done something right in his eight seasons at the helm.
The Jaguars are 11-2 under Odums with a week of rest, and that’s good news with an explosive Prairie View A&M team coming to A.W. Mumford Stadium on Saturday for a 6 p.m. kickoff.
Before the open week, Southern played its most complete game of the season in dismantling Arkansas-Pine Bluff 31-7. Even with that momentum, Odums said he was glad to have time to rest his team for its push toward the post season. He said his team responded with a good practice Tuesday highlighted by “a lot of energy” in the 6 a.m. workout.
“You have to understand the heartbeat of your team,” Odums said about handling a bye week. “Everybody does it differently. Our team was tired. You want to use it to get reenergized; the life is back.
“Also, you are in the hunt, you’re playing for something. We’re sitting here at 2-3 and the best is still in front of us. Our challenge is to get better and continue the enthusiasm. That’s been our recipe. We don’t have the same schedule, don’t practice the same way, don’t focus on same things. Each year deals you something different.”
Southern has a long way to go to meet the preseason goals of a SWAC championship. The Jaguars (2-3, 1-0) still has seven conference games to play but look to be coming together. They got back to basics by running the ball and stopping the run, rushing for 269 yards and holding the Lions to 61.
There’s always a risk of interrupting the momentum but Odums said his team needed to heal after 10 straight weeks of practice going back to the start of fall camp July 31. Players are getting a chance to refresh their bodies is better for the long haul.
Defensive end Jordan Lewis has been quiet the past two games but Odums said that was because of an ankle injury. He said Lewis should be 100 percent Saturday. Odums also said some injuries nagging a couple of offensive linemen and tight ends are no longer an issue.
Even players who weren’t hurt welcome the break but are eager to pick up where they left off.
“Last game we were good but there’s always something we can improve on,” defensive tackle Dakavion Champion said. “We’re building off that game. It was a big statement, a good test.
“It’s just the rest (that helps). Not having to wake up every morning ... it puts toll on your body. But we stay focused. More guys are talking, making a lot of noise. Everybody running around with energy. We try not to lose sight of what’s ahead of us.”
The Jaguars will have a challenge in Prairie View (2-3, 2-1), which also comes in off an open date. The Panthers beat Grambling 42-36 in their last outing and could be looking for revenge. The two teams met in the same situation last year and Southern dominated the Panthers 38-0 on the way to winning the SWAC West Division title.
Southern held the league rushing leader Dawonya Tucker to 17 yards on 10 carries. PVU quarterback Jalen Morton threw for 251 yards but Southern intercepted five passes. Both seniors are back, poised for revenge.
Tucker, a 5-foot-7, 175-pound dynamo, has rushed for 662 yards, seven touchdowns and an 8.2 yards-per-carry average. He rushed for a school record 263 yards and two touchdowns against Grambling. Morton is the league’s second leading passer with 1,218 yards and 10 TDs.
“They can make some plays,” Odums said. “Morton is off to a great start. Tucker is one of the better running backs in the conference. He has it all — great vision, he’s elusive, it looks like he’s gotten a little bigger and stronger.
“We’ll have our hands full. It should be a great environment for college football.”
Former Southern band director and icon Dr. Isaac Greggs will be honored at halftime of Saturday’s game. Gregg’s, for whom the Southern Band Hall is named, directed the marching band known as “The Human Jukebox” for 36 years until his retirement in 2005. He died in 2014.
A plaque will be awarded to members of Greggs’ family.
Odums said he was not familiar with Greggs before arriving at Southern in 2011, but it didn’t take long for him to catch on what he meant to the school.
“Once you step foot on this ground, you know he’s someone who is very impactful to the Southern University community,” Odums said.
Big game coming
Odums said the crosstown game against LSU being negotiated for the 2023 season is “something long overdue” and lauded the two sides for working toward the historic meeting.
Officials from both schools confirmed the two sides are in the process of filling in the details. LSU has never played Southern or Grambling, the state’s largest historically black schools. LSU is scheduled to play Nicholls State for the first time in 2020.
“I think it’s great for both fan bases and the community,” he said. “Everybody is anticipating the word to come out that its going to happen. We’re on the same road, in the same car, having the same discussion. It’s a matter of getting things worked out that both parties agree to. I believe it’s going to happen.”