Southern showed off for its homecoming crowd with a series of spectacular plays in a 51-36 victory against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday night in A.W. Mumford Stadium.
Freshman quarterback Austin Howard overcame a fumble for an early Golden Lions touchdown to pass for 230 yards and three touchdowns. He completed 14-of-22 passes and ran nine times for 39 yards.
Freshman Danny Johnson returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, and Reggie Travis caught three touchdown passes, including one from fellow wide receiver Willie Quinn. Travis finished with five catches for 156 yards and had scoring catches of 79, 11 and 41 yards.
In addition, the Jaguars defense, which gave up 682 yards, including 410 rushing, against Alcorn State a week earlier, contained UAPB quarterback Ben Anderson, the Southwestern Athletic Conference Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and reigning SWAC Offensive Player of the Week.
Anderson completed 18 of 41 passes for 289 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He ran 19 times for a loss of 7 yards after being sacked eight times and rushed for one touchdown.
“We just wanted to keep him in the pocket,” said Southern defensive end Arthur Miley, who had three sacks. “We knew he could make plays by himself. We knew we had to keep him in the pocket if we wanted to win the game.”
All in all, it was a thorough recovery from the 56-16 loss to Alcorn, Southern’s worst conference loss since 2010. The Jaguars (3-3, 2-1) visit Alabama A&M next Saturday. The Lions fell to 1-4 and 0-3.
“At the end of the day, it was a great team win,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said. “I thought we bounced back the way we’ve always done after losses since I’ve been here.”
It was the third time this season and the fifth straight time dating to last season that the Jaguars followed a loss with a victory.
Southern, which scored 14 points in the final 4½ minutes of the first half to take a 34-21 halftime lead, took control midway through the third quarter.
Quinn took a handoff from Howard on a reverse and threw a strike to a wide-open Travis for a 41-yard touchdown and a 41-21 lead with 6:02 left in the third.
“When we practiced that play this week, Willie kept telling me he was going to put it on the money,” Travis said. “He was prepared, and it worked out perfectly.”
Greg Pittman’s 27-yard field goal pushed the lead to 44-21 with 12:54 left in the game.
UAPB cut the lead to 44-28 when Anderson threw a 25-yard touchdown to Willie Duncan III with 7:03 left.
Johnson’s interception set up Jamarcus Jarvis’ 9-yard touchdown run with 2:24 left.
Aaron LaGrone’s 12-yard touchdown run and Johnson’s run for a two-point conversion completed the scoring with 31 seconds left.
“I thought we played a dominating third quarter,” Odums said. “They scored a couple of times in the fourth quarter when we were playing some guys who come to practice every day and deserve to play too.”
On the second play from scrimmage, Howard launched a long pass that was underthrown to Travis. UAPB’s Kavin Alexander fell down trying to come back on the ball; Travis jumped to grab the ball near midfield and ran to the end zone for a 79-yard touchdown.
The Lions tied the score when Antonio Jenkins knocked the ball loose from Howard at the Jaguars 4 and Kyle Walker recovered in the end zone.
The tie lasted just a few seconds as Johnson returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a Southern touchdown.
The series of big plays continued as Anderson and LaGrone hooked up on a 61-yard completion that set up Anderson’s 1-yard touchdown run.
Howard and Travis teamed on an 11-yard touchdown to give the Jaguars a 20-14 lead after Pittman’s PAT was blocked barely a minute into the second quarter.
UAPB took its first lead when Anderson threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Branch.
Brian McCain’s 1-yard touchdown run put Southern back on top 27-21, and Howard’s 27-yard touchdown pass to Sam Altman pushed it to 34-21 at halftime.