Southern wide receiver/return specialist Willie Quinn opened a lot of eyes with his remarkable performance Thursday.
He had a hand in three touchdowns — returning a kickoff 90 yards for one, returning a punt 39 yards for another, and throwing an 89-yard pass to Randall Menard for yet another — in a 50-13 victory against Mississippi Valley State.
Quinn’s highlights helped ESPN fill up its SportsCenter broadcasts that night as his kickoff return was No. 6 and the punt return, in which he broke a handful of tackles, was No. 2 on the Top 10 highlights.
“I always wanted to make the Top 10,” Quinn said with a smile Tuesday, “and I made it twice.”
Quinn’s highlights showed up on the big-screen TV on the Jaguars bus during the ride home from Itta Bena, Mississippi.
“Guys started cheering,” Quinn said.
And teammates kept showing him clips on their phones.
“Coming up as a kid, everybody wants to play college football,” wide receiver Justin Morgan said. “But the big thing isn’t just playing college football but being on ESPN and having that exposure is a really good thing.”
“It shows the country that (Southwestern Athletic Conference) schools also have very nice talent,” linebacker Martin Henry said.
ESPN also did a lengthier piece on Quinn outside of the Top 10 countdown.
“We were on ESPN, and you have your own segment and people around the world who don’t know anything about Southern got a chance to see it in their living room,” coach Dawson Odums said. “That’s what this game is able to do, that’s what sports are able to do.”
A different trifecta
Morgan couldn’t match Quinn’s highlights, but he had a notable trifecta of his own, playing on offense (wide receiver), defense (cornerback) and special teams (kickoff return).
He hadn’t played cornerback or returned a kickoff since he was a freshman three years ago. Morgan made an interception even though he was just moved to defense earlier last week.
“Everybody was pretty hyped up,” Morgan said. “I only practiced a couple of days, so to come out and get an interception was a pretty big deal.”
Linebacker Kentavious Preston said players joked that Morgan was “the athlete” on the team when he entered the defensive meeting room the first time.
“We knew he could get the job done at cornerback,” Preston said, “and it showed Thursday night.”
An honest assessment
Preston made his first start against the Delta Devils and finished with a team-high 11 tackles, 2.5 for loss and one sack. But, he said, the stat sheet was misleading.
“The stat sheet shows 11 tackles, but the stat sheet didn’t show seven missed tackles,” Preston said. “That was terrible. I believe I played a bad game, but the 11 tackles made up for some of it. I still have a lot of room for improvement.”
Preston said he played “a whole lot, more than I thought I would” because the Jaguars’ six-man rotation at linebacker shrunk to three as injuries mounted.
Home opener could sell out
For much of the day Tuesday, there was a long line at the Southern ticket office inside the F.G. Clark Activity Center as fans bought tickets for Saturday’s home opener against Jackson State.
The combination of a belated home opener after two road games and a visit from the Jaguars’ most bitter rival that comes to Mumford Stadium could lead to a sellout. The last time Mumford (capacity 28,500) was full was for the Tigers’ most-recent visit two years ago.
The Southern ticket office will be open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday and Friday. The expanded hours Thursday and Friday will be in effect during weeks when the Jaguars play home games this season.
Kickoff is 5:02 p.m.
Some tickets that were printed early show the kickoff at 6 p.m., but the actual kickoff time is 5:02 p.m. The change was made to accommodate ESPN.
The game will be streamed live on ESPN3 and the WATCHESPN app, and it will be shown on tape delay on ESPNU shortly after its conclusion.
Allow extra time
Southern is advising fans to allow extra time for their drive to the stadium Saturday in the anticipation of a large crowd.
Traffic could be further complicated by a new parking regulation. No vehicles will be allowed to enter the campus from any direction before kickoff Saturday without a parking pass.
Fans that don’t have a season parking pass can purchase a general admission parking pass for $10 at any of the entrances Saturday, which could slow the traffic flow.
— Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.