SAN ANTONIO, Texas — In a perfect world, Southern’s batch of talented freshmen quarterbacks would develop by watching from the sidelines as senior Austin Howard marches into the school’s record book.
The real world is much more brutal for the Jaguars.
Southern’s freshmen quarterbacks took another beating, throwing three interceptions in a 51-17 loss to Texas-San Antonio on Saturday night at the Alamodome.
The Jaguars (1-2) finished with 149 yards, the fewest allowed by the Roadrunners in the school’s seven-year history.
Redshirt freshman Darquez Lee started and shared playing time with freshman Glendon "Bubba" McDaniel.
“They’re young,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said. “They’re asked to do something that you don’t want to really ask a freshman to do. But I still think at the end of the day it’s valuable reps. Once we get into conference play, these reps are going to be beneficial if they have to enter the ballgame.”
The Jaguars offense has scored only 10 points since Howard injured his knee in the fourth quarter of the season opener. The senior has not played since returning to that game to take a knee on the final play of Southern’s 14-8 win over South Carolina State.
Lee completed 3 of 13 passes for 20 yards and had two interceptions. McDaniel had an interception while completing 6 of 13 passes for 45 yards.
Lee and McDaniel unavailable after the game as Southern does not allow its freshmen to speak to the media.
“We had a little bit too much pressure,” Jaguars right guard Christian Rodriguez said. “We didn’t make a good enough pocket for the quarterback to step up in. Me being one of the O-line veterans and leaders, I take responsibility for that. We could have done that better to make it a little easier for them.”
After McDaniel started last week’s 45-0 loss to Southern Mississippi, Odums opted to start Lee against a second straight Conference USA team.
“I thought Lee gave us a better calmness,” Odums said. “I still thought he gave us a chance in the first half. He just didn’t have a chance. Their pass rush was very dominant.”
The Roadrunners finished with five sacks and seven quarterback hurries while shutting out the Jaguars in the first half.
Southern finished with 18 yards in 14 plays in the opening quarter, which was an improvement from the minus-8 yards in last week’s shutout.
McDaniel completed his first pass after taking over in the second quarter, but the quick toss toward the sideline resulted in no yardage.
“The biggest thing is trying to keep them confident,” Southern cornerback Danny Johnson said. “That’s a big task at hand to take over that offense. Quarterback is a tough position, but they’ve just got to play. It’s going to be tough games like this win or lose, but they’ve got to continue to fight regardless of what the circumstances might be.”
Johnson earlier scored on a 61-yard interception return midway through the third quarter. It was the second career interception return for a touchdown for the senior.
While Southern’s freshmen were struggling, UTSA’s senior quarterback Dalton Sturm demonstrated what experience can do. Making his 22nd career start after earning the starting job midway through his sophomore season, Sturm showed why he is on the 2017 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award preseason watch list as one of the nation’s top senior or fourth-year junior quarterback.
On their opening drive, Sturm drove the Roadrunners 45 yards on four plays in 1:47 for a touchdown for a touchdown.
Poised in the pocket and stepping up in it to avoid pressure, Sturm led UTSA to a touchdown on each of its seven possessions in the first half.
Sturm did not play in the second half after completing 19 of 22 passes for 292 yards and four touchdowns in the first half.
"The line's been doing a great job making me feel comfortable in the pocket," Sturm said.
Sturm’s 292 yards passing in the first half is only 69 yards less than the Jaguars have accumulated in its three games.
UTSA reserve quarterback Bryce Rivers also threw two interceptions and lost a fumble, but those turnovers came after the Roadrunners bolted to a 48-0 lead at halftime.