Having a short memory following mistakes was generally a boon to Southern’s offense Saturday night against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
It was especially effective for true freshman quarterback Austin Howard.
Despite two turnovers, Howard turned in the best overall game of his just-beginning Southern career, directing the Jaguars to a 51-36 Southwestern Athletic Conference win over the Golden Lions.
“I was pleased with the way Austin played,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said after Howard completed 14 of 22 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns.
The only blemishes were an interception of a tipped pass and a fumble that turned into a UAPB touchdown.
“(Howard) still has to value the football and make the right reads,” Odums said. “He fumbled right there on a sprint-out when he had a chance to get the ball to a wide receiver. He’s just got to let the ball go.”
With Southern nursing a 7-0 lead and possessing the ball near its own goal line, Howard was sacked. The hit caused Howard to fumble backward into the end zone, where Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s Kyle Walker recovered for a touchdown that briefly tied the score.
Howard’s other turnover came midway through the fourth quarter when his pass to Willie Quinn was tipped into the air. It held up long enough for UAPB’s Kevin Rucker to make the interception. Rucker returned the pick 30 yards to the SU 12-yard line setting up a short touchdown drive.
“Those are quarterback mistakes,” Odums said. “Everybody says he’s a freshman, but if you’ve been playing the game as long as he has and taken as many snaps as he has this year, then it’s just understanding the offense and making your plays.
“I thought he did a good job of that tonight.”
Following the first-half fumble, Howard responded by completing 10 of his next 12 throws, including a 27-yard scoring toss to Samuel Altman with 42 seconds left in the half. He piloted the Jaguars to 17 second-half points to put the game out of reach.
The main benefactor of Howard’s efforts was wide receiver Reggie Travis, who snared five passes for 156 yards and three touchdowns. Travis’ three scores were the most for a Southern player in a single game this season and the most since Lee Doss had three in a game last season.
Howard and Travis had talked all week in practice about hooking up for a touchdown pass, and the two didn’t wait long to get the job done. On Southern’s second play from scrimmage, Howard threw long down the left sideline for Travis.
After UAPB defender Kavin Alexander fell on the play, Travis made the reception near midfield, outmaneuvered one more defender and raced home for a 79-yard touchdown. Travis caught his second score early in the second quarter, this one a perfectly thrown ball to the left corner for an 11-yard score.
Travis got his third TD off a halfback pass from Willie Quinn in the third quarter, this one a 41-yard strike with no one near him.
“All week, we were talking about getting our first (touchdown),” Travis said of the banter between himself and Howard. “Right before the game I said we’re going to get two, and then we got two. It was crazy.”
It was also a confidence-builder for an offense that needs a confident leader.
“It’s not just my confidence. It helps build up Austin, it helps (offensive coordinator Chad) Germany,” Travis said. “It helps the whole offense, really.
“It wasn’t just me. It was the offensive line blocking, the quarterback making the right reads. We just put everything together.”