HOUSTON — When Demerio Houston fielded a punt late in the third quarter of Southern’s 33-7 win against Texas Southern, he almost looked surprised to see nobody near him.
Texas Southern was certainly surprised it was Houston catching the ball, and Southern drew it up that way.
The punt angled toward Houston on the Texas Southern sideline. Southern angled its blocking scheme toward Danny Johnson on its own sideline. Texas Southern’s coverage unit followed Southern’s blockers.
Houston fielded the punt at the Southern 26-yard line, a couple of yards in front of several members of the Texas Southern coverage team on the opposite side of the field.
With the head start, he only needed to beat the punter on his way to a 74-yard return touchdown.
"I knew they were going to follow him; that was the plan," Houston said. "I caught the ball, saw green grass and I took it."
It was Southern's fourth return touchdown this season, counting interceptions.
Southern held a 13-0 lead at the end of the first half, but it could have been bigger had it not been for some squandered opportunities.
Three of Southern’s first-half drives ended inside the Texas Southern 30-yard line, but those drives only yielded six points.
The Jaguars' second drive of the game went 45 yards on 9 plays, but the drive ended with a 44-yard field goal attempt that fell short of the crossbar. Southern coach Dawson Odums said the surface at BBVA Compass Stadium — which serves as the home turf for the Houston Dynamo professional soccer club — played a role in that miss.
"It's a sand-based surface, and you don't have a chance to practice on that," Odums said. "The field conditions made it difficult for our kicker."
Another drive stalled after Herb Edwards was dropped for a 5-yard loss on a first-down rushing attempt. Southern was not able to recover on second and third downs, settling for a short field goal.
The Jaguars had a golden opportunity on their final drive of the first half, when an Aaron Tiller strip-sack gave them possession at the Texas Southern 36 with 1:26 remaining in the half.
They managed to position themselves with a first-and-goal from the 1 but were not able to punch it in. Tevin Horton was stuffed twice, and Jeremias Houston could not make a tough catch in the back of the end zone.
Spreading the wealth
Southern has made a point of using as many different options as it can in the passing game this season, but it may have taken that to a new level Saturday.
Of quarterback Austin Howard’s first 14 completions, 11 went to different receivers. The 11 receivers who caught a pass Saturday was a season high for Southern.
"I just go through progressions," Howard said. "Wherever the defense took me to, that's where I'd throw it. If not, I'd keep going. If you're open, that's who gets the ball."
Nash handles punting duties
Southern used senior punter Murphy Nash on Saturday after sophomore Taylor Merritt had handled the punting duties exclusively for the past five games.
Nash averaged 30.2 yards on his four punts, a figure that includes a punt Texas Southern blocked midway through the third quarter.
Tiller, Howard and Johnson served as Southern’s captains Saturday … A moment of silence was held before Saturday’s game in remembrance of the victims in last week’s mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas.