A sellout crowd showed up at A.W. Mumford Stadium on Saturday to see Southern’s first home game since November.
The Jaguars rewarded their fans by showing off the variety of weapons they have in their offensive arsenal in a 50-31 victory against Jackson State.
Southern accumulated 675 yards and scored 50 points for the second consecutive game, having beaten Mississippi Valley State 50-13 on Sept. 10. It’s the first time the Jaguars have scored 50 points in consecutive games since Oct. 11, 2003, when they beat Alabama A&M 55-25 a week after topping Arkansas-Pine Bluff 53-7.
“When we saw the crowd that we had (30,198 fans),” sophomore quarterback Austin Howard said, “we wanted to come out and reward them for the faith they had in us.”
Howard led the way. He had a career high in passing yards by halftime and finished with 395, completing 21 of 32 passes, including a 43-yard touchdown pass to Willie Quinn. Howard, who was intercepted once, ran for touchdowns of 4 and 10 yards.
Quinn, who scored three touchdowns on returns and threw a TD pass in the first two games, scored on offense for the first time this season, finishing with 107 yards on six catches.
“The coaches said all week that they wanted to get me the ball,” said Quinn, who had just four catches for 46 yards through two games. “(Offensive coordinator Chad Germany) called good plays and Austin did a good job of getting me the ball, and I just did what I do best.”
Lenard Tillery did what he does best, rushing for 135 yards on 21 carries and scoring on runs of 4 and 11 yards. Malcolm Crockett was the third Jaguar to run for two touchdowns, scoring from 1 and 13 yards.
“We showed that we’re very versatile,” Crockett said. “We showed we can run the ball and we showed that we can pass the ball, and the defense did a good job overall.”
The Jaguars, who visit No. 7 Georgia next Saturday, are 2-1 and 2-0 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. The Tigers are 0-3 and 0-1.
Southern dominated the first half, gaining 405 yards, including 336 passing, to take a 29-7 lead. But JSU drove 75 yards to LaMontiez Ivy’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Jairus Moll on the first possession of the third quarter to get within 29-14.
Southern responded quickly by driving 68 yards in four plays, the last of which was an 11-yard touchdown run by Tillery.
Ivy scrambled 5 yards on third-and-goal for a touchdown that cut the lead to 36-21 with 4:53 left in the third quarter.
Ryan Deising’s 30-yard field goal made it 36-24 after three quarters, but Crockett ran 13 yards for a touchdown and a 43-24 lead with 13:40 left.
Howard completed the Jaguars’ scoring with a 10-yard run with 8:25 left. He then turned things over to backup Jarrad Hayes.
The Tigers completed the scoring with a 9-yard pass from Ivy to Daniel Williams.
Ivy completed 29 of 53 passes for 357 yards and three touchdowns. He was intercepted by linebacker Javon Allen, the sixth interception of the season for the Jaguars, who also had their first fumble recovery of the season when Nicholas McDonald grabbed the ball after Gabe Echols knocked it loose from Robert Johnson on JSU’s first possession.
Moll, who was Howard’s teammate for two seasons at West St. John, had six receptions for a game-high 130 yards.
“You had two explosive offenses out there,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said. “But defensively we had a game plan and, other than two drives, I thought we executed it as well as we could have.”
This game started much like last year’s, when Southern took a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter and led 27-0 midway through the second before JSU fought back to lose by just 14.
The Jaguars drove 55 yards in four plays on the opening drive, and Howard’s 4-yard scoring run and Mike Jones’ two-point run gave them a quick 8-0 lead.
On Southern’s next possession, it drove 60 yards to a touchdown in four plays. Quinn, who had three returns for touchdowns in the first two games, got his first offensive touchdown of the season on a strike from Howard.
“We always want to get off to a fast start,” Crockett said. “When you do that, you let the other team know that you mean business.”
The Tigers got within 15-7 on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Ivy to Williams.
Tillery’s 4-yard run capped a 94-yard touchdown run that pushed the lead to 22-7. Crockett’s 1-yard run completed an 82-yard touchdown drive that made it 29-7 at halftime.
The Jaguars missed an opportunity to extend the lead just before halftime when Robert Porter intercepted Howard in the end zone when he lofted a pass to Randall Menard.
Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.