Austin Howard thumped his chest and pointed toward the stands after giving the home crowd a performance to remember him by in his final performance at A.W. Mumford Stadium.
“That’s what we’ve been saying all week,” Howard said. “The last game in the backyard, let’s go make it memorable.”
With Howard leading the charge, Southern scored 20 straight second-half points and rallied from a seven-point third-quarter deficit to secure an important 37-31 win against Prairie View on Saturday afternoon.
“He made some throws tonight that…” said Southern coach Dawson Odums, his voice trailing off. “You could see his talent.”
Howard threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns in the win, the fifth straight for Southern (6-3, 5-1 Southwestern Athletic Conference). In the process, he broke a pair of school records held by Dray Joseph.
“I was just out there playing ball," Howard said. "… At the end of the day, we’ve just got to have fun, and that’s what I was doing.”
Howard needed to be at his best. His counterpart, Panthers quarterback Neiko Hollins, recovered from an injury that temporarily knocked him out of the game and threw for three touchdowns of his own, keeping the pressure on Southern.
Howard broke a tie game when he found running back Herb Edwards alone on the sideline for a 21-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter. He found Dillon o for the second time Saturday and fourth time the past two weeks with 7:22 to go, putting Southern ahead by 13.
Southern quarterback Austin Howard, the senior captain who threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns in the Jaguars' 37-31 win against Prairie V…
But even after Howard looked like he iced the game, the end was not without drama.
With deft touch, Howard dropped a pass in to Kendall Catalon’s hands, and Catalon raced 68 yards to set up what looked to be a game-sealing drive late in the fourth quarter.
But two plays later, Edwards fumbled, giving Prairie View (3-5, 2-3) possession with 96 seconds remaining. The Panthers needed to go 83 yards for the win.
Howard may have been the story of the game — but another senior, Aaron Tiller, made sure he left his home field for the last time on happy terms.
Tiller had spent the majority of the game pressuring Hollins, but never getting home for the sack. With less than a minute remaining, he deked to the inside and rushed around the edge to drop Hollins for a 7-yard loss on third down, forcing a fumble in the process.
“I was looking to end the game,” Tiller said. “… They needed me, and I stepped up.”
Prairie View recovered but needed 15 yards to convert a fourth down. Hollins’ fourth-down pass fell incomplete, and Southern celebrated its fifth straight win.
“We’ve got a chance when our good guys show up, and our good guys showed up when the game was on the line,” Odums said.
The Jaguars enjoyed their best offensive day of the season, rolling up a season-high 572 yards of offense.
Southern had less two minutes on the clock and needed to go the length of the field.
It started early. SU received the opening kickoff and immediately operated out of its three-tight-end formation. The Jaguars enjoy the versatility that alignment provides, and the first drive showed why.
Tight ends Beard, Dennis Craig and Jeremias Houston combine to tip the scales at 725 pounds, giving Southern some added beef to the run game. But the tight ends also are accomplished receivers. Southern used the big-bodied formation to suck in the Prairie View defense with play action, then beat the defense through the air.
Beard caught two passes for 67 yards on the opening possession, the second being a 31-yard touchdown pass that capped a four-play, 76-yard drive.
But the Southern offense went into a lull, struggling to match that initial explosion. The next six possessions netted just 101 yards and three points.
A pair of Hollins touchdown passes in that span put Southern in a 14-10 hole by the time it took over from its own 10 with less than two minutes to go in the half.
It took a phenomenal drive by Howard to get Southern back in its groove.
He converted a third-and-11 from his own 9-yard line with a 12-yard pass to Catalon. Two plays later, he dropped a high-arcing pass into the hands of a streaking Cameron Mackey for 56 yards, then threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Houston. The senior quarterback went 5 of 6 for 91 yards on the drive.
Howard played every snap for the first time this season, and his best plays came at the most crucial times.
He played a direct part in converting the final three third downs Southern faced, hitting Devon Benn for 25 yards on third-and-14 late in the third quarter, and then in the fourth rushing for 11 yards on a third-and-10 and hitting Beard for a 4-yard score on third-and-goal.
“You can see when the game is on the line and when No. 7 (Howard) is healthy, what he means,” Odums said. “You saw a guy who is playing as good as anybody right now.”