Southern football team aims to ease pressure on quarterback Austin Howard _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Southern quarterback Austin Howard, left, slips a tackle by Alcorn State's Deion Roberson during last week's game in Lorman, Miss. Howard, a true freshman, attempted a season-high 35 passes in the 56-16 loss.

Austin Howard is having to carry a bigger load for Southern’s offense because of an injury to fellow quarterback Deonte Shorts.

But the Jaguars don’t want him carrying as much of a load as he did last week.

Howard averaged just 16 pass attempts in the first four games but threw 35 times in a 56-16 loss at Alcorn State last Saturday.

The combination of Shorts’ absence for a second consecutive game, an ineffective run game and the large deficit necessitated the high number of passes. Howard completed 15 for 188 yards and two touchdowns. The true freshman threw one interception and lost a fumble.

“I thought he played like a freshman, but I think he’s a good freshman that’s playing quarterback,” coach Dawson Odums said Tuesday. “He’s growing up every day. Every day is something new, every week presents new challenges, but he’s going to be a really good quarterback.

“You don’t want to put him in bad situations and we understand that the more times that he’s got to throw the football the more mistakes he’s probably going to make, but that’s understandable. It’s our job to not put him in the position where he’s got to throw the ball 35 times.”

Shorts continues to rest a groin injury that was originally described as a hernia. Odums said he hopes to have him back “shortly” but Shorts didn’t practice Tuesday and he seems unlikely to play against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday.

“We’ve got to work on the fundamentals and keep him humble in that pocket and let him know that he’s playing behind one of the best offensive lines in the country that can protect him,” Odums said of Howard. “He doesn’t have to always take off and run. I think as he grows, he’ll get comfortable with being in the pocket and standing there and making the necessary throws.”

Injury update

Odums said running back Jamarcus Jarvis (ankle) has the best chance among several injured players to return this week. Fellow running back Tyre Bracken’s shoulder injury is “pretty bad,” Odums said, “but I think we’ll get him back before the season is over.”

The third injured running back, Malcolm Crockett (ankle), is questionable, as is WR Mike Jones (ankle).

Linebacker Javon Allen hand is doubtful. Defensive back Blake Monroe sprained an ankle last Saturday but could be ready for this Saturday.

Takeaways wasted

One of the bright spots in the Alcorn loss had a dark side to it.

The Jaguars were plus-2 in turnovers after recovering four of the Braves’ six fumbles. But the takeaways led to just six points as Southern scored one touchdown (the PAT was blocked) and punted three times after taking the ball away.

“Usually when you win the turnover margin, you win football games,” Odums said. “I think we’re doing a good job of getting turnovers, but we’ve got to get more and we need to keep emphasizing that. Our offense usually gets more points out of that.”

More LB means less FB

Brian McCain is more of a linebacker than a fullback nowadays, Odums said.

McCain began the season as the starting fullback and started playing linebacker in the second game of the season after that position was depleted. McCain, who played linebacker in high school, has started the past two games on defense and continues to play fullback, but in a more limited role.

Hall of Fame homecoming

The game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff is homecoming and will kick off at 5:30 p.m.

In conjunction with homecoming, Southern is selling commemorative T-shirts inscribed with the phrase “Die Empty,” a reference to a recurring slogan former Jaguars defensive back Aeneas Williams used during his acceptance speech upon induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame two months ago.

Williams is scheduled to attend Saturday’s game and a variety of homecoming festivities.

The T-shirts are available at