MONTGOMERY, Ala. — On Tuesday, Southern coach Dawson Odums called for several of the Jaguars’ more low-key players to have a “breakout” performance against Alabama State.
On Saturday, they did.
The Jaguars largely dominated the Hornets in a 45-34 win, but it wasn’t the cast of usual suspects that got the job done.
Players like tight ends Montrell Jones and Dillon Beard shined in the passing game with a trio of touchdowns, while Willie Quinn — best known for his highlight-worthy returns on special teams — had the breakout performance at receiver Odums called for earlier in the week.
Beard and Jones combined for 114 yards on nine receptions. Quinn produced a game-high 141 yards on a career-high 12 catches.
“I said somebody was going to have to step up differently,” Odums said. “Usually the big-name players, for us this year, it’s been somebody different every week. This week, it was the tight ends. Big day from the tight ends. Next week, it’s going to have to be somebody different.”
Beard led the Jaguars with a pair of touchdown receptions, including the team’s final score on a 14-yard pass from quarterback Austin Howard with under two minutes to play that essentially ended Alabama State’s comeback bid.
Jones’ 67 yards were a career high for the senior, who would’ve had a second touchdown catch Saturday if not for a fumble at the 2-yard line in the fourth quarter at the end of a 13-yard gain.
But even when the tight ends made a mistake, the Jaguars still came out on top. Wide receiver Randall Menard fell on the ball in the end zone for the score.
“Coach always told us the game was going to come down to the tight ends one day, and we just have to be ready to have our number’s called,” Jones said. “That’s exactly what we came out and did. We took advantage of every opportunity that was thrown at us today.”
Quinn finished just 1 yard shy of his career high, but did manage to notch his eighth 100-yard receiving game on a career-high number of receptions.
But even with his stellar night, Quinn remained unemotional after the game.
“It’s nothing major,” he said. “I’ve been doing this my whole life.”
Howard, the quarterback, had one of his best games of the season, as well, completing passes to nine receivers for 355 yards on 33-for-45 passing. The 33 completions are a career high for the sophomore, eclipsing the 25 he produced against the Hornets in last season’s meeting.
Howard said he thought the Jaguars’ home opener against Jackson State in Week 3 was his most complete game but was pleased with the way he played Saturday. Howard’s four passing touchdowns eclipsed his total though Southern’s first four games combined (three).
“This game was a good game for me, but there’s always room to improve,” Howard said. “We knew (Alabama State’s Kourtney Berry) was a good linebacker and he was going to float to the ball a lot, so we were going to try to hit it right behind his head a few times, and we just executed.”