Asked about the possibility of facing another mobile quarterback this weekend, Southern defensive end Aaron Tiller just laughed and pointed to teammate Austin Howard, who was sitting down a few feet away.
“Like I always say: The only (Southwestern Athletic Conference) quarterback that don’t scramble is sitting right there,” Tiller said. “It’s the same every week, just a different number.”
It’s a fact of life in the SWAC: If you play on the defensive side of the ball, you better keep an eye on all 11 players once the play starts, because if you lose track of the quarterback you’ll get burned by his legs.
For the most part this season, Southern has done a nice job containing the quarterback run.
Jackson State surprised the Jaguars last week by busting out an option attack for the first time all season. It took a short time for Southern to adjust, but once it did, it put the clamps on the JSU ground game.
Last month, Alcorn State quarterback Lenorris Footman, who had made a career out of terrorizing Southern’s defense with his legs, was limited to 70 yards on 18 carries.
The latest challenge is presented by Pine Bluff quarterback LaEarl Patterson, who seized the Golden Lions' starting job after spending the early portion of the season as a mobile change of pace to starter Brandon Duncan.
Patterson has started each of the past two games and has put up solid numbers, completing half of his passes for 533 yards and three touchdowns to go with 105 yards and two scores on the ground.
He is the man Southern coach Dawson Odums expects to see at quarterback for Pine Bluff on Saturday.
“I think (Patterson) is the guy going forward for them,” Odums said. “He’s played extremely well while he’s been in there. … He’s an exceptional runner, and he’s an above-average passer.”
1: An exploitable secondary
The Golden Lions have allowed the most passing yards per game in the SWAC this season, yielding an average of 271.2 yards. Southern has yet to have a huge game through the air this season, but this might be the best chance for senior quarterback Austin Howard to truly break out.
2: Turnover prone
The Golden Lions are among the worst in the nation when it comes to turnover margin, with their -12 ranking No. 119 among Football Championship Subdivision teams. Forcing turnovers happens to be Southern’s defensive specialty.
3: An interesting timeshare
Running back Devon Benn is healthy after a knee injury cost him most of the past three games. He was a starter before he went down, but Herb Edwards has been outstanding in his place, rushing for 418 yards the past three games. It’ll be interesting to see how Southern splits the workload.
4: Third-down splits
Southern leads the SWAC in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert just 30.7 percent of their third-down attempts. Meanwhile, Pine Bluff ranks among the worst in the league in third-down offense, successfully converting just 27.2 percent of its attempts.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
24.5 — Southern’s average margin of victory in a four-game win streak against Arkansas-Pine Bluff
3 — Passing touchdowns Austin Howard needs to move into second place on the school’s all-time list
6 — Sacks by Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s Tashad Charity, tying him with Southern’s Aaron Tiller for the SWAC lead