In Southern coach Dawson Odums’ estimation, his club beat Prairie View on Saturday because his best players stepped up to make their best plays at the crucial moment.

The teamwork covered up the fact that those big plays were made necessary because one of his best players had his worst play at the crucial moment.

Southern had the ball at the Prairie View 15-yard line leading 37-31 with less than two minutes to play when senior running back Herb Edwards — one of the most consistently excellent Jaguars during a five-game win streak — lost a fumble.

“You’re running the clock out; all you’ve got to do is protect the football,” Odums said. “You’ve got a senior back, and we placed the ball on the ground.

“As a coach, I believe in staying in the moment. You tell them don’t worry about it. You’ve got to protect the football; we didn’t, move on. Defense, let’s go.”

The situation was familiar to Southern, which frequently works two-minute defense situations in practice: Prairie View needed to cover 83 yards in 96 seconds.

A touchdown with a successful extra point would have equaled a Southern loss.

A pair of Panthers runs resulted in a first down, but Southern’s defense came to life after that with contributions from its best players.

After safety Montavius Gaines dropped a sure interception on first down, cornerback Danny Johnson accelerated on a hitch route and broke up a second-down pass, nearly intercepting it.

On third down, Aaron Tiller used an outside rush to drop Panthers quarterback Neiko Hollins for Southern’s first sack of the game. Tiller forced a fumble that Southern was unable to recover, but it pushed Prairie View even further back.

“At that time of the game, your good players have got to make big-time plays,” Odums said. “I thought our guys made big-time plays when the game was on the line. That was really the deciding factor.”

Howard repeats

Senior quarterback Austin Howard repeated as the Southwestern Athletic Conference offensive player of the week after throwing four touchdowns and a season-best 405 yards in Southern’s 37-31 win against Prairie View.

Howard has passed for nine touchdowns in the past two games and has 15 touchdowns on the season, one behind Grambling’s Devante Kincade for the SWAC lead.

“I think he realizes that that clock is ticking and time is winding out,” Odums said. “You can see the attention to detail; you can see the focus. When he’s on? Look out, because he can light it up.”

Freshman wide receiver Kendall Catalon finished with a career-high 175 yards receiving Saturday, but was beat out for SWAC newcomer of the week honors by Alcorn State junior running back P.J. Simmons.

One on one

Prairie View was one of the few teams to decide it was not going to shy away from Johnson, Southern’s top cover corner.

A reason: The Panthers felt confident their top receiver, Khadarel Hodge, could win some one-on-one battles against Johnson.

“They traded punches,” said Prairie View coach Willie Simmons on Monday’s SWAC teleconference. “They both showed why they’re probably future NFL players going toe-to-toe.”

Hodge was targeted 13 times, many with Johnson covering him. He finished with six catches for 81 yards and beat Johnson for a 12-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

Johnson finished the game with a season-high 12 tackles and 4 pass breakups.

“(Hodge), he’s special,” Odums said. “We had our best matched up on him and they went head-to-head.”

In the rankings

Grambling remained at No. 13 in the STATS FCS top 25 rankings after its narrow 31-26 win against Arkansas-Pine Bluff last week. Pine Bluff outscored Grambling 13-3 in the second half.

The Tigers have won eight consecutive games since losing their season opener against Tulane and are the SWAC’s only ranked team.

Follow Luke Johnson on Twitter, @ByLukeJohnson.