By Mike McCall
We’re a day away from Southern’s 4 p.m. kickoff against Prairie View in the Shreveport Classic. After squandering a shot at first place in the division last week, the Jaguars (3-4, 2-3 SWAC) are mostly playing for pride at this point, and the Panthers (2-5, 2-3 SWAC). are in a similar situation, though their chances of catching Arkansas-Pine Bluff are better since they haven’t played the Golden Lions head to head yet.
To get you ready, here’s a roundup of the key storylines heading into this contest. Check them out and click the links for more details:
– That butt-kicking by UAPB last weekend really put a damper on Southern’s season. As interim head coach Dawson Odums said, they missed “a golden opportunity,” and without that win, the Jaguars now need to win out while having the Golden Lions lose three of four. It’s kind of like being down 3-0 in a best-of-seven series, and for an inconsistent team like Southern, that means the odds of a title are largely gone. Perhaps worst of all, the fans didn’t even show up for the biggest game of the year, a troubling sign for this program’s future.
– But enough depressing talk about last week. What now? As Southern’s results this year show, they’re an up-and-down team that isn’t really ready to challenge for a championship. That doesn’t mean all motivation is gone though. For one, the Jaguars have been great at bouncing back from losses, something they attribute to Odums’ motivational tactics. The final four games also bring a chance to notch the first winning season since 2009 (they need to win three), improve upon last year’s 4-7 record and maybe play well enough to get their coaches re-hired at SU (more on that in Saturday’s paper).
– On offense, Southern moved the ball okay last week but couldn’t score enough, and the Jaguars will be looking for a better game against PV’s defense, which ranks next to last in the league. As always, they’re talking about getting the running game going, but at this point in the season, I doubt that suddenly springs to life. It doesn’t help that center Aaron Hall is now out for the year.
– The defense is embarrassed after last week’s performance, which was its worst of the year, and the unit is determined not to have a repeat. It will help that an injury-riddled secondary looks poised to bounce back, as strong safety Levi Jackson and cornerbacks Virgil Williams and Johnathan Mack are all scheduled to play despite missing practice time this week. There’s also some added motivation for Williams, who will be playing in his hometown for just the second time since graduating from Evangel Christian. That’s all a welcome sight for Southern, as they’ll be facing a Prairie View offense that seems to have woken up. The Panthers scored 52 points in a win over Alcorn State last week, when QB Deauntre Smiley won SWAC offensive player of the week.
– I don’t expect Williams to have his usual impact on special teams. With his shoulder injury, he was held out of his return duties this week, and it looks like Jaleel Richardson (wrist) won’t be back there either. Look for Charles Hawkins, Justin Morgan and Terence Clayton to get a shot.
– Prediction: Southern plays better than last week, but the Panthers ride their momentum to a 27-21 win over the banged-up Jaguars.
That’s all folks. Drive safe and enjoy the game!