The quarterbacks for Southern’s game at Georgia on Saturday are both coming off record-setting performances.
Jaguars sophomore Austin Howard had perhaps the best game of his young career Saturday.
Howard passed for a career-high 395 yards and could have had much more if the Jaguars had needed to be aggressive in the second half of a wire-to-wire 50-31 victory against Jackson State.
Coach Dawson Odums called Howard’s performance “a very polished football game” and it earned him Southwestern Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors.
But Howard’s counterpart in this week’s game — Bulldogs junior Greyson Lambert, a transfer from Virginia — bested him last week.
Lambert was about as close to perfect as a passer can be. He completed an NCAA-record 96 percent of his passes (24-of-25) in a 52-20 victory against South Carolina.
“I can’t believe he threw an incompletion,” Georgia coach Mark Richt joked. “I was disappointed in that. But we’ll forgive him.”
Most Bulldogs fans probably forgave him for his 0-for-7 start a week earlier against Vanderbilt after he set a school record by completing 20 consecutive passes and threw for a career-high 330 yards and three touchdowns.
Just as Howard’s stellar performance had to share the spotlight with Lambert’s, so did Lambert’s have to share the spotlight. He was named merely Co-Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Week, sharing the award with some Fournette guy from LSU.
Southern cornerback Danny Johnson watched Lambert’s virtuoso performance on tape.
“He gets the ball to his receivers,” Johnson said simply.
Jaguars coach Dawson Odums said Lambert’s “decision making” stood out the most. In fact, Lambert’s only incompletion came when he chose to throw the ball out of the end zone because he didn’t see an open receiver.
“He gets rid of the football,” Odums said. “He doesn’t take a lot of sacks (one in three games). He understands where he wants to go with the football. He does a great job of delivering the football.”
Odums praised Lambert’s veteran offensive line, which will present a big challenge to Southern’s defensive front.
“It’s a veteran group, so there isn’t a lot you can throw at them that they haven’t seen,” Odums said. “It’s really going to come down to making sure that you execute what you do and do it very well in order for you to have a chance, because you’ve got to play fast, you’ve got to play really fast and without a whole lot of thinking.”
Howard said he knew he had to have a big game Saturday after the dream he had the night before. In it, he saw his position coach at West St. John High School — Juan Joseph, who was shot to death in November.
“I knew that was a sign for me to do good,” Howard said of the vision.
Howard added that he saw some ways he can improve on his performance: “reading quicker, getting the ball out, stop holding the ball.”
Lambert, too, saw room for improvement in his performance: “There’s always room for improvement — 25-for-25.”
Despite the near perfection, Lambert ranks second in the SEC in passing efficiency. Howard ranks first among starters in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
“He’s amazing. He’s as advertised,” running back Lenard Tillery said of Howard, the SWAC Freshman of the Year last season. “When he first got here a lot of people thought he was too young to play, but he’s showing he’s a great player and a great competitor.
“He’s always been in control of the offense, but now he’s starting to understand the game a little more. He’s starting to see the front, see how the linebackers are playing. He can check the play when he sees that. When you have a quarterback who watches a lot of film and knows the tendencies, you’re just going to have more success on Saturday.”
Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate