HOUSTON — The harder the rain came down Saturday at BBVA Compass Stadium, the harder Southern running back Lenard Tillery ran.
On a soaked and deteriorating field, Tillery had a career day.
The junior from McKinley High School ran for 196 yards on 25 carries and also added four catches for another 4 yards in Southern’s 40-21 win over Texas Southern.
“It’s about time,” Southern coach Dawson Odums joked after the game.
“In these conditions, you have to have that. In the rain and with the wet field, you have to lean on that O-line and it was fantastic today. And Tillery was fantastic today.”
Tillery’s previous high was 168 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns against Grambling in the Bayou Classic last season.
Tillery set the tone early against TSU by scoring two first-quarter touchdowns on short bursts up the middle.
In the second half, he was even more unstoppable. Tillery ran for 121 of his 196 yards in the final two quarters.
“As it got wetter, we had to rely on the ground game,” Tillery said. “When the offensive line heard that, they were really excited. They love running the ball and they love run-blocking.”
Tillery put the finishing touches on the Tigers during SU’s first drive of the fourth quarter.
He had runs of 9, 4 and 43 yards before fellow running back John West ran in from 1 yard out to make it 40-21.
Tillery, who became Southern’s first 1,000-yard rusher in 11 years last year, watched most of the fourth quarter from the sideline, falling just 4 yards shy of 200.
“I’m happy. Right under 200,” Tillery said. “I’m glad we got the win. I wish we would have just got a faster jump and put them away earlier.”
While the Jaguars’ pass attack was limited to 72 yards on the wet field, Odums was more than happy with the ground game, which finished with 305 yards.
West added 51 rushing yards, while quarterback Deonte Shorts had 32 yards on five carries.
“When we can run the football, we can beat anybody in the country,” Odums said. “We have one of the best backs in the country and we have one of the best offensive lines in the country. I’m glad they got some confidence in being able to run the ball this week.”