AN OPPOSING VIEW
Georgia is labeling Saturday’s visit by Southern University as an historic occasion because the Bulldogs will be playing host to an Historically Black College or University (HBCU) team for the first time ever. We’re chalking it up as historic, too, because it means that Les East of the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate will also be at Sanford Stadium.
Known as “The Great Leslie” among Louisiana sports writers, East has been covering sports in that fair state for more than 30 years. A native of New Orleans, he has covered a variety of college and professional teams, including LSU, Tulane, the New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans. He has covered several Super Bowls, college football and basketball championships and the NBA Finals. He’s in his third season covering Southern athletics.
Thankfully for us, East agreed to answer our questions for this week’s Opposing View blog. In the meantime, I’d highly recommend following him on Twitter @EastAdvocate and reading his reports on the Jaguars on The Advocate’s website.
Now here’s what Les East had to say about Saturday’s matchup:
1. So give us some quick background on Southern University and how often it has taken on these kinds of pay-to-play games? Have they pulled off any monumental upsets doing this?
East: This is the fourth consecutive season that Southern has opened on the road against an FBS team. What separates this season is the fact that it’s playing two FBS teams (it opened at Louisiana Tech) and it’s going from the frying pan to the fire. The three previous seasons they played New Mexico, Houston and Louisiana-Lafayette. Now comes its first game against an SEC team. The Jaguars are 0-8 against FBS opponents, though years ago it beat Tulsa before it moved up to the FBS.
2. Georgia is viewing this as a sort of an “historic” occasion in that it is playing host to an HBCU team for the first time. Any insight as to how Southern U and its people perceive such an event? Will many folks travel to Athens to watch it?
East: I think most of the Southern people think it will be fun to watch their team perform in this venue against this opponent, though they don’t have any delusions about how the game will go. The “Jaguar Nation” generally travels well, though most of the SWAC trips are closer to home. There are several bus trips scheduled so you will see pockets of fans in blue and yellow and they will make their presence known in a good-natured way.
3. Tell me a little about this team and coach Dawson Odums.
East: This is one of the best programs in the SWAC. Coach Odums has brought it back to a level approaching the glory days it enjoyed under coach Pete Richardson in the 1990s. The Jaguars have won the last two SWAC West division titles, winning the league title two years ago and losing to Alcorn State in the title game last season. Odums was promoted from defensive coordinator after an 0-2 start under former coach Stump Mitchell in 2012. He immediately instilled discipline and led the team to a respectable 4-5 record the rest of that season before the division titles. His teams have shown an ability to fight to the end no matter what so no matter how lopsided this game might get I expect you’ll see their best effort for 60 minutes.
4. What can you tell us about the player Mark Richt calls a “little stick of dynamite,” 5-foot-5, 145-pound Willie Quinn?
East: He’s fun to watch. Any time he touches the football you think he has a chance to go the distance and he often does. It takes him just a split second to recognize where the hole is and he attacks it. He’s fast, but his quick footwork is an even greater attribute. He has great vision and determination. He has three returns for touchdowns this season and seven in his career. He’s also Southern’s leading receiver, has thrown a touchdown pass each of the last two seasons and occasionally will get the ball in the run game. Regardless of whether he is able to break any long runs against Georgia, I think everyone watching will appreciate his heart and determination.
5. I’m sure you always get this but everybody seems most excited about hearing “The Human Jukebox” marching band. Is that the most oft-asked question of Southern U and are they worthy of all the fuss made about them?
East: It’s probably the most frequently asked question when Southern plays outside the SWAC. All of the SWAC schools rightfully pride themselves on their bands and the band competitions are often as fierce as the games. I think the fuss is justified. There are a lot of great bands performing at college football games. Across town in Baton Rouge, LSU has a very good band, Ohio State is well regarded and I’m sure Georgia has a very good one as well. Southern’s band, like its football team, is smaller and has fewer resources than its FBS counterparts, but my observation has been that most of the really good bands are comprised of excellent musical technicians that are very disciplined. Southern’s band doesn’t lack in either of those areas but it’s also much freer and looser – and soulful – in how it performs. Don’t leave your seat at halftime.