ITTA BENA, Miss. — When the call came, quarterback J.P. Douglas expected it.
Southern’s freshman backup knows the drill by now.
Saturday afternoon at Rice-Totten Stadium, in an ugly-but-important 28-21 win against Mississippi Valley State, the Southern offense was moving, but it often struggled to reach the goal line. The starter, Dray Joseph, mixed a handful of masterful moments with the occasional mistake.
And a vicious wind, coming in from the north and gusting to 20 mph, didn’t allow for many easy throws.
But that didn’t really make a difference. Second-year coach Stump Mitchell has said all along he wants Douglas to play a little in every game — and in three of the past four weeks, he’d been true to his word.
So when Mitchell told Douglas to hit the field at the start of the third quarter Saturday, Douglas said he knew what to do.
“I’ve always got to stay on my toes and keep ready. I just have to stay warm,” he said. “And I have to prepare. I have to go through my mind right quick, then execute it out on the field.”
Which, for the most part, is exactly what Douglas did. He completed 16 of 25 passes for 223 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
When Southern was in need of a 94-yard game-winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, the team got it. And Douglas engineered it.
On the decisive possession, Douglas completed five of nine passes for 93 yards — including a 58-yard touchdown throw to LaQuinton Evans, which gave the Jaguars a 28-21 lead with 11:09 remaining.
Evans did much of the work himself; he ran a slant route, caught the pass, broke a tackle and outraced everyone to the goal line.
Still, Douglas’ throw had to be quick and on the money. It was both.
“It’s somewhat different with two quarterbacks, because they have different throwing motion. Their passes come out different,” Evans said. “But being a receiver, when the ball comes your way, you’ve got to locate the ball and go get it.”
The touchdown came on a third-and-1. It was the third straight third-down conversion of the drive.
Earlier, on a third-and-5, Douglas threw left to Jared Green, who made a reaching grab while being hit. He gained 6 yards.
Then, on a third-and-9, Douglas threw down the middle to Mike Berry for a gain of 14 yards.
On the touchdown, Douglas threw to his right.
He had done just as Mitchell hoped.
Before the third quarter began, the coach told Douglas: “Stay patient and read the whole field. Control the ball.”
Douglas often did.
Joseph, for his part, was 5-of-10 for 60 yards, with one touchdown pass (to Evans) and two interceptions. Joseph also scrambled for a 16-yard touchdown run.
But in the first half, Southern was mostly content to run, in large part because of the wind. It had 22 rushing attempts before halftime, sometimes using tackles as extra tight ends.
“It worked for a while,” Mitchell said. “But they adjusted (in) the second half, so I knew we were going to have to throw the ball some.”
Douglas, throwing into the wind during the third quarter, proved he could do the job. At one point, when SU faced a third-and-25, Douglas unleashed a strong, looping throw down the left sideline to Jordan Bilbo, who caught it for a gain of 26. The Jaguars later turned it over on downs, but Mitchell saw enough.
“J.P. threw the ball well in the wind,” he said. “So with the wind, I was going to give him the opportunity to make some stuff happen.”
He was ready for it. And he did.