ITTA BENA, Miss. — Willie Quinn outscored the competition by himself.
Southern’s senior receiver racked up 276 total yards and three touchdowns — none as a receiver — to spark the Jaguars’ 50-13 beatdown of Mississippi Valley State on Thursday night at Rice-Totten Stadium.
Quinn found the end zone on a punt return, threw for another touchdown on a trick play and brought a kickoff back for a score during the teams’ Southwestern Athletic Conference opener. He averaged 46 yards per touch.
“Willie is one of the most humble guys on our team,” said Southern coach Dawson Odums. “God gives us all talents, and he uses his to his fullest.”
Southern (1-1, 1-0 SWAC) already had a 13-0 lead when Quinn got his big night started with a highlight-reel play.
After the Jaguars’ defense forced its second three-and-out in as many drives, the senior fielded a shallow punt on the 39-yard line and broke a handful of tackles on his way to the end zone. He leaped over a Delta Devil defender as he crossed the goal line to put Southern ahead 20-0 late in the first quarter.
Quinn’s big night came after he earned SWAC Special Teams Player of the Week for his efforts against Louisiana Tech last Saturday, which included a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
During postgame interviews, a highlight of Quinn’s punt return caught Odums’ eye mid-sentence.
“Hey, look at that, Willie,” Odums told the senior receiver. “They got you on TV, man. You see that? That’s pretty impressive. You made ‘SportsCenter.’ ”
“Top 10,” Quinn said, smiling.
He wasn’t finished there. Following junior defensive back Nicholas McDonald’s interception in the end zone that stifled a Valley drive, Quinn struck again.
On the first play of the Jaguars’ subsequent drive, he took a jet sweep toward the left sideline and found junior receiver Randall Menard wide open downfield for an 89-yard scoring strike. The touchdown put Southern ahead 33-0 with 6:20 remaining in the second quarter, though the Delta Devils tacked on six points before halftime.
The junior finished the first half with 186 total yards on four touches.
Valley (0-2, 0-1 SWAC) chipped away at the deficit with another touchdown on the opening drive of the second half, but Quinn put their comeback to bed with a 90-yard touchdown on the ensuing kickoff. The Delta Devils looked like they had him stopped around the 30-yard line, but he found a lane and outran the coverage team to the end zone.
He now has seven career return touchdowns, with four coming on kickoffs and three on punts.
“We don’t need much. Just give him a little crease, and he’ll make a big hole,” Odums said. “He’s an electrifying football player. We’re glad he’s on our team. He’s a special talent, and we’re just glad he plays for the Jaguars.”
He’s used to being a jack-of-all-trades for his team. Quinn amassed 1,826 all-purpose yards last season, which featured five receiving touchdowns, three return touchdowns and a 45-yard touchdown pass against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
But Quinn didn’t do it alone Thursday night. The Jaguars’ defensive front brought relentless pressure throughout the game to force three interceptions, two of which came in the red zone.
Offensively, Southern leaned on a powerful ground game and efficient play from sophomore quarterback Austin Howard.
Most of Quinn’s production didn’t come at receiver — he caught only two passes for 35 yards and didn’t register an offensive snap after the 5:34 mark of the third quarter.
Quinn said tallying a passing, kick return and punt return touchdown in the same game was a first for him.
He credited his preparation as the catalyst behind his career night.
“If you practice hard Monday and practice hard Tuesday and Wednesday, come game day it’s easier,” Quinn said.