PINE BLUFF, Ark. — Southern quarterback Austin Howard knew the weather forecast long before the Jaguars stepped onto the field Saturday at Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
His defense made sure of that.
The Southern passing attack had been practically nonexistent the past two weeks as driving rainstorms made it nearly impossible to air it out on offense. The Jaguars had 112 passing yards combined in games against Texas Southern and Alcorn State. Howard attempted just 17 passes during that stretch.
But even on a cloudy day, not a drop of rain came down in Pine Bluff.
“It looks pretty dry out there today,” Howard recalled his teammates saying to him before the game.
Howard found his grip on the football once again and gave his rested arm plenty of work against one of the worst teams in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. He produced 229 yards and four touchdowns on 15-for-21 passing against the Golden Lions.
It wasn’t his most prolific outing of the season, or even his favorite, but Saturday was a massive relief for the sophomore.
“Quarterbacking isn’t about just handing the ball off,” Howard said. “It just feels great to get our offense going once again. I feel like I’m back at home within the offense. It’s a great thing.”
It didn’t take long for Howard to get back in the swing of the passing game, either, finding wide receiver Bradley Coleman on an 8-yard touchdown less than three minutes into the game.
Coleman, who dove at the pylon while being hit on the play, said the score gave him a bit of personal relief as well after he missed an opportunity earlier in the year against Jackson State.
“I didn’t want to be denied on that one,” Coleman said. “Earlier in the season I left a touchdown on the field, and it’s been eating me up the whole season. I just wanted to finally redeem myself.”
The score was Coleman’s first of the season — but more importantly for the team, he was the first of four receivers to haul in a touchdown pass Saturday.
Wide receiver Willie Quinn reached the end zone on the Jaguars’ second drive. The tiny playmaker turned a quick buttonhook route into a 13-yard run to the end zone.
Running back Malcolm Crockett and receiver Nico Talbert also contributed long touchdown receptions of their own before the end of the half, both registering at 37 yards each.
“Each one of those guys has a different thing they bring to the table,” Howard said. “Willie Quinn is just electrifying. ... He just speaks for himself. And all the other receivers speak for themselves. You just put the ball up and they’re going to go get it.”
Howard’s night tailed off in the second half after the Jaguars had already taken a massive lead.
Howard threw four incomplete passes to start the third quarter and was pulled for the rest of the game. Southern pounded the running game to kill the clock.
“It’s not about numbers,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said. “We win the game, we lose games, but at the end of the day, are we being consistent? That’s our challenge in November: Are we playing consistent football?”