Southern football chat, 1 p.m., on the Jaguar Nation blog

Any interesting topics surrounding the Southern football team?

Oh, let’s see. There’s that two-quarterback thing going on. There are signs of a running game. There’s the issue of the defense, which, yet again, spent too much time on the field last week. One other thing: There’s that small matter of Southern blowing fourth-quarter leads against bitter rivals in back-to-back games.

So let’s put it all on the table.

As usual, we’ll host a live chat on Southern football at 1 p.m. Wednesday on theadvocate.com, right here on the Jaguar Nation blog.

Stop by with questions, concerns, comments, kudos and complaints. And tell a friend.

We all know that Southern fans have strong opinions on Stump Mitchell and the Jaguars. If you’re looking for the right forum in which to share them, this is it.

Please, just remember: keep it clean. After all, it’s just a game.

Worth repeating: Stump Mitchell

At one point during his weekly press conference, Southern football coach Stump Mitchell was as blunt and forceful as a hammer to the head.

His team, he said, was better than Florida A&M. But his team made too many mistakes and let FAMU hang around for too long.

So instead of being 2-2, the Jaguars are 1-3. Now they prepare for a road game against Mississippi Valley State at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Other remarks from Mitchell:

Opening statement:
“Last weekend’s game in Atlanta was a very festive weekend. Fans won the battle of the fans. The band won the battle of the bands. Unfortunately, we didn’t win the football game. But it was a great occasion. It was a great opportunity for meet a young man by the name of Mr. Sheldon Early, who’s a Southern alum. He’s going to be spearheading a charge for all fraternity brothers and sorority sisters to, when they come to homecoming, to make a donation of $100 each toward funding the turf field that we’re trying to get, which will be great for all sports, and also, Southern University as well.”

What does your team have to do in order to close out some of these games?
“Well, we have to manage the game. Offensively, those guys that are entrusted with the football, they have to protect the football. We cannot give the ball away.”

“In the Jackson State game, we had seven dropped passes, which (were) huge. Those passes caused us to not be so good in third-down situations, and also prevented us from scoring in the red zone. We had a fumble against Jackson State on the 2-yard line. We ended up losing that game, I think, by four points.

“Then, in the Atlanta game, we just didn’t manage the ballgame. We got ahead by 16 points, and we just lost all discipline in just the way we did things. We blocked a punt, and we should not have tried to field the punt (because) it went beyond the line of scrimmage. And as a result, we got the ball back. We stopped them and had them in third-and-long situations, and we got a personal foul, which was terrible. We were in control of the game at that particular point in time. And we gave them life.”

“Offensively, we only had the bad the ball for a minute maybe 30 or 40 seconds in the third quarter. But it’s going to be that way when you’re out there defensively. You punt and you get a punt return for a touchdown (by Byron Williams). You go back, defensively and you get an interception for a touchdown (by Demetric Rogers). You go back out there defensively. You punt, and we blocked the punt, and muff the punt. They get the ball. So that’s how that was in that third quarter. In the fourth quarter, we started every drive with a run. Then we had to go to the pass. In the fourth quarter, we had seven runs for 10 yards. We had nine passes. Dray (Joseph) was 6-of-9, and he had two interceptions in that last period — the last one on the fourth-and-5.”

“We just lost all control of everything in the latter part of the third quarter and in the fourth quarter.”

On the quarterback rotation, and his desire to play freshman J.P. Douglas:
“Well, I think it’s beneficial to give J.P. some playing time, so you don’t have a situation where you’re starting fresh.”

“I didn’t think J.P. was able, in my opinion, to handle playing in the Jackson State game. I just didn’t see it in his eyes. Against FAMU, with the game being in Atlanta, he was a different kid. Under center, he felt great. Being in the dome, he felt great. Having his family and all his friends there at the game. So he played petty decent in the Atlanta game.”

“But I think both of those guys will get playing time. Dray is the guy. Dray made some fabulous plays. He really did.”

“In the fourth quarter, I really wish he would’ve just thrown that ball away (instead of passing to Mike Berry, who tipped the ball, which was intercepted by FAMU linebacker John Williams). He just forced it in to a guy who ran a bad route and tried to make something out of nothing. Because at that point in time, we were still ahead by nine points. We tried to force something in there, and it turned out bad.”

Do you and your guys feel a sense of frustration after these past two losses?
“We feel a sense of letting the Jaguar Nation down. We feel a sense of letting Southern University down. And we feel the sense of letting each other down. Because we know we were picked to go 1-3, and we allowed that to happen. And we didn’t have to have that happen.”

“Those games did not have to be that close. Guys that are entrusted with the ball in their hands, offensively, have to control the ball. And we don’t need any one person on this football team to win this football game for us. We just need the guys have to understand. That’s what the quarterbacks have to understand. That’s what the receivers and backs have to understand. For the most part, we were not going to put our corners in too bad of a situation, playing a whole lot of one-on-one. They’re usually, for the most part, are going to have safety help. So we’re trying to feed off one another, and as a result, some of us stepped out of line, and that caused us to lose these last couple ballgames.”

“A bunch of dropped passes, and we can’t have that. I mean, guys that didn’t play as well as they’ve played in the past — we have to be able to depend on those guys. And when you’re not carrying your share of the load, that makes it tough. But we also know, some of the guys that did those things are not the players that they’re going to be the remainder of the year, or that they had been three games prior to that game.”

LaQuinton Evans caught that first pass, then was pretty quiet the rest of the game. Was it something the corners were doing, or was he not getting the reads? What happened there?
“No. It was frustrating to me as well, because LaQuinton should’ve caught a few more balls. He was open on a few pass patterns, and he was a primary receiver on a few pass patterns, and we didn’t get him the ball. That was frustrating because … it’s my job, as a coach, to be able to get the ball to my football player. But all I do is call the plays. I don’t execute them. It was frustrating, because even when the game got tight, I wanted to get the ball to LaQuinton, because I know he was frustrated. That was all I needed him to be — frustrated, with the ball in his hands. They would’ve been in trouble. But I couldn’t get it to him.”

Can you tell us about the running game? Sylvester Nzekwe had 42 yards; I’m sure you’d like to see double that.
“That would’ve been nice. That was the plan, to come back out in the third quarter. The first time we got the ball, we gave it to Sylvester and he gave us 11 yards — and we get a holding penalty. So now we come back, and it’s first-and-20. J.P. Douglas makes a great throw to get half of it back, and we drop the ball. That’s what frustrated me in that game. We allowed a team that we were better than to hang around, and we lost the game.”

What do you need to do to get this running game going? You guys, obviously, are last in the conference.
“I’m not worrying about that. I mean, we are who we are. We’re trying to improve against FAMU, and hopefully we’ll be able to come out and do it this week. Had the third quarter not gone the way it went, we would’ve been over 100 yards. Sylvester would’ve been over 100 yards. I was given the opportunities to carry the ball, and the offensive line was giving him some running room.”

“Defense — they didn’t force them to punt because they got an interception for a touchdown. Which one do you want? They punted and we blocked the punt. Maybe we shouldn’t have gone for the block because we took away the opportunity for Byron Williams to return another one for a touchdown. But we get the block, and we’re in great field position. But now, we touch a ball that went beyond the line of scrimmage. And we didn’t recover it. We should’ve just gotten out of the way. But we didn’t.”

Can you expand on Byron? Obviously, his punt return was a huge play. Do you expect him to produce those types of plays every week?
“Hopefully. After that, they didn’t kick it to him. There’s no question that Byron is a talented young man. He has not learned the offense as of yet, and it’s not that difficult, but I know he sees himself as a kickoff returner and a punt returner, and he did a fabulous job of doing that.”

What have you seen from Valley so far?
“They’ve played some good games. They’ve lost some games because they turned the ball over, unfortunately. They turned the ball over a lot. And hopefully, we can get some of those turnovers, and we can capitalize. But they’re big. They’re playing a lot better than they did last year. They scored 34 points and they lost (to Prairie View, 43-34).”

“Their defense is big. They’re at home, and they’re looking for their first win.”

“It’s a big conference game. We want to stay where we’re at in the conference. We don’t want to lose a game. We’ve got to go out and work hard today, and I think the guys will.”

Every game is a big game. But how important is this one?
“It’s huge. It’s a huge game. It’s a conference game. On our side, we can be 2-1. What we want to do is put ourselves in position, when we come home next week, to be able to get to .500. That’s what we have to do. And we have not won, since I’ve been here, two games in a row. That’s not a lot of games to win in a row, if you want to consider yourself halfway good.”

“But to do that, you can’t drop balls. You can’t have penalties. Those are some of the things that we’ve had the last two weeks against Jackson State, who was supposed to be the best team in the conference. Of course, they were beaten by (Alabama State). And then FAMU, who they had rated in the top 10, I think. We should’ve won that game, as well. We just have to take care of our own business and not worry about anything else.”

Is this maybe a good week for your offense to score a load of points?
“Well, I thought last week was an opportunity for us to score over 40 points. I thought the week before, against Jackson State, was an opportunity for us to score points. And those weeks were. But we did not protect the football. And that’s what we have to do. We have to hold on to the ball. We have to catch passes. We’ve had entirely too many dropped passes the last couple of weeks. We’re too talented for that, and we have to do better.”

As well as your defense has played, your pass rush wasn’t quite what it was maybe a couple weeks ago. Is there anything you can do in order to get it jump-started?
“Well, I guess, we tried some stunts and some various things, but the past couple weeks, we’ve played some pretty decent quarterbacks, and we’ve had some big offensive linemen to go against, and our guys are not that big. We’re getting more from the two freshmen, in terms of pressure, than we are from the veteran guys, and I think that’s because the freshmen are faster. They have better pass-rush technique thus far.”

“But hopefully we’ll be able to find some ways to put some pressure on the quarterback. … So we feel pretty good.”

On what the team learned from their preseason visit to Saints camp:
“They understood that it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. Chase Daniel and Drew Brees — those guys aren’t big, stature-wise. But man, do they stand tall, in terms of their faith and their belief in their ability.”

Charles Hawkins dressed out Saturday, but did not play. Will he be available this week?
“He was available last weekend. I just didn’t play him, for the simple fact that you’re talking about a guy that really took a beating in the Tennessee State game. He really took a beating. And then you’re talking about a young man that got a concussion in the Jackson State game. They cleared him to play, but I wasn’t going to clear him to play, because Hawkins is a great individual. I don’t want his career to end because he got a couple concussions. That’s not going to be the case.

“I’m not concerned this week about him, because they cleared him last week. So he’ll be playing this week.”

He’ll be back in the starter’s role?
“Yes, he will be.”

What about left tackle Chris Browne (ankle) and Zach Brown (ankle)?
“We will probably have Chris Browne. We probably will not have Zach Brown. Probably not for a week or two.”

How much does the shuffling of the line affect the offense?
“No. I’ll let them worry about it.”

Notes, quotes and other doodads from around SWAC Land

Here’s a little secret: In a 21-6 loss at Southern earlier this season, Alabama A&M did not look like a very good college football team.

Then there was last week. The Bulldogs played solid defense, pounded Grambling for 258 rushing yards and scored late to take home a 20-14 win. Alabama A&M is back in the Eastern Division race. Grambling is in danger of falling out of the Western Division race. What in the name of Eddie Robinson is going on here?

Just another week in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Some notes, quotes and other doodads in a trip around SWAC land:

PRAIRIE VIEW: Everyone had a chance to watch Prairie View’s humiliating 63-14 loss to Bethune-Cookman in the season opener on ESPN. The Panthers are 2-1 since then. “We’re a young ballclub. You never know where they are emotionally at times,” coach Heishma Northern said. “So I just tell my guys, ‘Coaching is overrated. It’s more about you guys making plays.’ ” … A win this week could send Grambling to 1-3 in conference play, all but knocking the Tigers out of the Western Division race. “I’m not really concerned with burying Grambling. I’m concerned with us keeping pace,” Northern said. “We put enough bullets in our foot the last couple of weeks, and we’re keeping the blood-pressure medicine companies in business, if you’re a Prairie View fan.”

TEXAS SOUTHERN: Anyone who dismisses the Tigers as a one-year wonder might have to think again. After one month, TSU leads the nation in total defense, and its rushing offense, with Martin Gilbert and Marcus Wright, is brutally effective, to the tune of 203.7 yards per game. “There’s no doubt that our eyes are on a certain shore … that we’re looking forward to reaching together,” interim coach Kevin Ramsey said.

GRAMBLING: The Tigers’ defensive line was supposed to be an asset this season, not a liability. And while they have a respectable 10 sacks, they got pushed around against Alabama A&M in a 20-14 loss last week, and they’re allowing a SWAC-high 185.0 rushing yards per game. Coach Doug Williams said that’s partially because star tackle Jomarcus Savage was “nursing injuries” last week, and also because “we had a couple guys that academically didn’t make it. But you can’t use that as an excuse.”

ALABAMA STATE: You looking for big, big wins? Alabama State just got two of them, back-to-back, on the road. The first was at Grambling, a place the Hornets have not typically fared well. Last week, they toppled Jackson State at Veterans Memorial Stadium. If there was any doubt before that ASU is the team to beat in the East, that doubt is gone now. “Naturally, everybody likes a winner,” coach Reggie Barlow said.

JACKSON STATE: All those turnovers finally bit JSU. The Tigers had 10 giveaways in two wins against Tennessee State and Southern, but couldn’t overcome seven more turnovers in a 21-14 home loss to Alabama State. Star quarterback Casey Therriault threw six interceptions. “We knew that if that would continue to occur, that a good football team was going to come in and beat you,” coach Rick Comegy said. JSU leads the nation with 19 turnovers.

ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF: Times are good at UAPB. Running back Adrian Moore is turning into a powerful rusher (he has 307 yards), and the Golden Lions are off to a 2-0 start in conference play for the first time since 1997. But they shouldn’t feel too good just yet. “You slip and lose a couple two or three games, all of a sudden, you’re out of the picture,” coach Monte Coleman said. This week, his team faces Alabama A&M, which, as we discussed before, just picked up a big road win at Grambling.

Good, bad and odd moments from SU’s loss to FAMU

The look on Sylvester Nzekwe’s face said it all.

Saturday night, shortly after Southern flopped in the second half of a 38-33 loss to Florida A&M, the junior tailback was asked to speak about his performance. He said he did OK, but also mentioned that he could’ve done better.

Then he was asked about the team’s performance. Nzekwe shook his head. He gave a blank stare. Then he sighed and looked toward the Georgia Dome ceiling.

“Everybody’s performance …”

Nzekwe’s voice tailed off.

“I don’t know. Everybody had their errors. I don’t know what to say.”

No kidding.

A few more good moments, bad signs and oddities from the Jaguars’ second straight crushing loss:

THE GOOD

  • The quarterbacks … in the first half. Sophomore Dray Joseph came out strong in the first quarter. He fired a long 41-yard bomb down the left sideline to star receiver LaQuinton Evans; found Lee Doss for a pair of nice gains, then hit Mike Berry down the middle for a 56-yard score. He threw one interception on a bad read (or, at least, bad communication between Joseph and his receiver, Jordan Bilbo). After that, freshman J.P. Douglas came in — and right before halftime, he led the longest (and best) drive of the afternoon. Douglas was 3-for-5 on that 13-play drive, and he scrambled for 11 yards on a busted play. The resulting touchdown gave SU a 19-17 halftime lead.
  • (Some) special-teams plays. Southern got a great boost from its kickoff- and punt-return teams, getting 239 yards from both units — including Byron Williams’ 79-yard punt return, which came very early in the third quarter. Also, the coaching staff gambled by using a new place-kicker, Matt Hill, for the first time. Hill is a sophomore who played soccer in junior college and never kicked in a college football game before. He was 3-for-4 on extra points and attempted no field goals. Manuel Canto handled punts and kickoffs. He was mostly solid, though he bobbled a first-half snap, and his punt was blocked, resulting in a field goal for FAMU.
  • The run game. Starting for the first time this season, Nzekwe gave the Jaguars plenty more than they had before. He had 42 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries Saturday, averaging 3.0 yards per attempt — not great, but far better than SU’s first three games, when the team averaged 1.3 yards per carry. Nzekwe added 45 receiving yards on a team-high five catches. In other words, he gave the Jaguars what they desperately needed.
  • The defense. It was not a perfect performance for Southern’s defense, by any means. But yet again, the defense was on the field for a long time Saturday (18 more plays than the offense). And though the defense almost held off FAMU, it started to tire late in the game, giving up rushing yards in chunks, allowing FAMU wideout Kevin Elliott to break loose, etc. On balance, however, the defense did enough to give Southern a chance to win. After four weeks, the defense has played 92 more plays than the offense. Not good now … and really not good later, deep into the season, when fatigue sets in.

THE BAD
How much time do we have?

  • The offense … in the second half. Southern managed 52 yards from scrimmage after halftime. Enough said.
  • The quarterbacks … in the second half. In fairness, Douglas didn’t have the ball for long during the third quarter, when Williams made his punt return and Demetric Rogers made his 59-yard interception return for another touchdown. But on two third-quarter possessions, Douglas went 0-for-5. By the time Joseph re-entered the huddle, at the start of the fourth quarter, he was cold. FAMU started playing more zone defense, and it worked: Joseph threw two more interceptions.
  • Dropped passes. Talented receiver Mike Berry scored for the third time in the last three games, breaking open for a 56-yard touchdown in the second quarter. But he had two CRUCIAL tips/drops in the fourth quarter. On one play, Joseph’s pass was behind Berry, who reached backward, tipped the pass and gave FAMU linebacker John Williams a chance to pick it off. Which he did. (Joseph said Berry ran the wrong route on the play.) Then, late in the game, when Southern had to have a third-down conversion, Berry was open down the middle. He got both hands on the ball … and dropped it. SU punted, and FAMU responded with the game-winning drive.
  • Also, it’s worth noting that Evans made only one catch, the 41-yarder in the first quarter. He was the target on Southern’s last play, the interception to seal the game. Between those two moments, he was barely targeted at all. That might have been FAMU’s coverage; I don’t know. But the Jaguars needed the ball in his hands more often.
  • Other mental mistakes. No sense in piling on here, because this wasn’t a true turning point. But in the third quarter, the Jaguars had a 33-17 lead, and their defense forced another three-and-out. One more scoring drive probably could’ve put FAMU away for good. Southern’s Jared Detrick tipped a punt, and after it fluttered beyond the line of scrimmage, Corry Roy tried to snatch the ball and make a return. He muffed it, and FAMU recovered. That’s when new quarterback Damien Fleming came into the game. He led the Rattlers on a scoring drive, and that gave FAMU the small opening it needed in order to get back in the game. It should’ve been another big play for SU. Instead, it was a big play for FAMU. And many moments like those added up to a big letdown in the end.

THE ODD
Well, let’s leave it at this: It’s not every day that a team builds a 33-17 lead in the second half; gets a surprising boost from a previously nonexistent ground game; gets a defensive touchdown; gets a special-teams touchdown … and still finds a way to lose.

So far, it’s been that kind of year.

Southern falls apart, FAMU wins 38-33 stunner in Georgia Dome

As you’ve probably heard, this game is over.

And for the Southern football team, it is a demoralizing defeat.

Southern managed to blow a 16-point second-half lead against Florida A&M, which rallied for three unanswered touchdowns and snuffed out a late comeback attempt to prevail 38-33 at the Georgia Dome in the Atlanta Football Classic.

For the Jaguars, this was an absolute crushing loss. Southern (1-3) has blown fourth-quarter leads in back-to-back games against bitter rivals Jackson State and FAMU.

Saturday, the SU offense managed only 2 yards in the third quarter; offensive linemen Chris Browne and Zach Brown left the game with injuries in the second half; and the defense couldn’t get off the field when it absolutely needed to.

We’ll be back Sunday with a more detailed breakdown of the game.

Until then, feel free to mope.

Southern … FAMU … a big game in Atlanta. Follow us live on Twitter

Southern. Florida A&M.

Doesn’t that pretty much say it all?

At 2:30 p.m. CST Saturday, these two longtime rivals will crack heads at the Georgia Dome in the Atlanta Football Classic. And they both sorely need a win.

Yes, the game is on Versus, but remember: you can’t always see everything on TV. Coaches’ tirades, injured players on the sidelines, changes on the offensive line — you never know what you’ll miss. So even if you have Versus, you should still follow us at http://twitter.com/perrynkeys.

We’ll live-tweet from gavel to gavel.

A few things worth chewing on:

—Wide receiver Charles Hawkins traveled with team. He suffered a concussion in last week’s loss to Jackson State, and coach Stump Mitchell said this week that as a precautionary measure, Hawkins probably won’t play. And just because he’s in Atlanta doesn’t mean he will play. Either way, it’s telling how much Hawkins means to the team that he traveled. He’s a leader, and teammates respect his toughness and work ethic.

—We’re not playing this tune on a constant loop. Promise. But Southern has to find a way to spark its running game. The Jaguars have tried different backs, different line combinations and even different plays. On the first play of last week’s game, they tried a new starter (Terrell Alex) and a new play (a toss). It lost 2 yards. Still, don’t be surprised if Southern adds a few other twists, such as a counter or a stretch. The Jaguars have to keep trying.

—Quarterback Dray Joseph has admitted that in any game, he needs to get off to a good start. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be outlandish to see Southern try a few short, safe passing plays against FAMU — things like screens or short passes in the flat to fullback Brian McCain. That said, FAMU coach Joe Taylor said he’ll probably blitz Joseph to make uncomfortable. If the Rattlers do that, Joseph has to be ready.

As for us, we’re ready. We’ve seen lots of FAMU and Southern fans already, so we should be in for a show. Again, follow us at http://twitter.com/perrynkeys for the time of your life.

Let’s get it on.

Three-and-out: The FAMU game

Woo-hoo! It’s almost here!

We’re one day away from the big showdown in the Georgia Dome between Southern (1-2) and Florida A&M (1-2), who square off at 2:30 p.m. (CST) in the Atlanta Football Classic. For most fans, it’s the most anticipated game on this year’s schedule — and for the team, obviously, this one is huge. A win would put Southern at 2-2 — and because next week’s game is at punchless Mississippi Valley State, the Jaguars would have a very realistic shot at going 3-2. That, of course, would be a rare bit of fortune for one Stump Mitchell.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First things first. Saturday’s game is a biggie. Here are three things to watch for.

First: RUNNING ON EMPTY. To this point, Southern’s run game has been nonexistent at 1.3 yards per carry. The funny thing is, FAMU hasn’t been much better (1.5 yards per carry). Of course, those numbers are affected by sacks, which count as lost rushing yards. Also, FAMU was overmatched against South Florida last week in a game that wasn’t really a fair fight. Still, neither team has exactly torn it up on the ground. The Jaguars believe they can stop the run and make FAMU one-dimensional. They did so against Alabama A&M. They failed against Tennessee State. Against Jackson State, they struggled against the run, partly because the defense was on the field for so long. At any rate, Southern has to win the matchup at the line of scrimmage.

Second: WATCH OUT! FAMU coach Joe Taylor said he’d like to use his defensive speed to pressure Southern quarterback Dray Joseph, to make him uncomfortable and make decisions faster than he wants to. We’ve seen that Southern receivers LaQuinton Evans and Mike Berry can beat corners one-on-one; it’s just a matter of whether Joseph can get it to them on time and on the money. He did that very well against Alabama A&M; only so-so against Jackson State. So pay attention to the Rattlers’ blitz — and how well Joseph adjusts to it.

Third: ‘THIRD’ IS THE WORD. It’s all about third down. When an offense struggles on third down, it can’t extend possessions and milk the clock. That takes its toll on the defense, which has to play longer. Through three games, Southern’s defense has played 74 more snaps than its offense — in part because the offense has failed to convert third downs, but also because the SU defense has also struggled on third downs. Last week against Jackson State, the Southern offense was 3-for-16 on third downs, and the defense allowed 10 third-down conversions. Simply put, if the Jaguars do a better job on third down, they will defeat FAMU.

Southern football: live chat, 1 p.m. Wednesday, theadvocate.com

It’s the Human Jukebox and the Marching 100. It’s coaching legends like A.W. Mumford and Jake Gaither.

It’s Southern and Florida A&M. Don’t you want to chat about it? Of course you do.

As usual, we’ll host a live chat on Southern football at 1 p.m. Wednesday on theadvocate.com, right here on the Jaguar Nation blog.

Stop by with questions, concerns, comments, kudos and complaints. And tell a friend.

We know this much: Die-hard Southern fans have strong opinions on Stump Mitchell an the Jaguars. If you’re looking for the right forum in which to share them, this is it.

Please, just remember: keep it clean. After all, it’s just a game.