Columbus Lions rookie Kevin Huff started to look like an old pro in only his second start.
The quarterback connected with receiver Joel Babb for three touchdowns, hit Gerald Gales for two more and finished with 155 yards in the Lions’ 54-33 victory over the South Carolina Force.
“I was just putting the ball up there and letting Joel make plays,” Huff said. “He made some good ones, especially his first touchdown. I just have a good corps of receivers and they were just making plays. I was just putting the ball up there.”
The Lions (6-2) were without leading receiver Troy Bergeron, who was nursing an tweaked hamstring in hopes of signing another mini-camp deal with the Atlanta Falcons next week. Babb started in his place and never missed a beat. He finished with 57 yards on six catches and three touchdowns.
As sharp as the Lions’ passing game was, it was fullback Richard Fitzhugh who put Columbus on the board first with a 3-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter. Carlos Martinez followed it up with the first of his seven point-after kicks.
Babb scored about two minutes into the second quarter on a 9-yard pass from Huff and Martinez’ uno made it 15-0.
South Carolina (3-4) made it a 15-14 game at halftime, however, after scoring on a 2-yard run from quarterback Andrew Webb and a 5-yard catch by Kelvin Sessoms.
Babb scored on an 8-yard catch and Martinez completed another 8-point play with an uno in the opening minutes of the third quarter, and the Lions went ahead 31-14 on a 2-yard run from Tirone Morris and another Martinez uno just three minutes later.
The Force’s Roy Ravenell scored the first of his two touchdowns on a 4-yard run on the next possession, but a missed point-after attempt kept the Lions ahead 31-20.
Columbus ended the third quarter ahead 38-20 on a 7-yard pass from Huff to Gales, who finished with a team-high 88 yards on five catches.
Ravenell scored on another short run less than two minutes into the fourth quarter, and the Force’s final score came with just more than a minute to play when Webb found Corey McKinney for a 14-yard score.
Babb’s third score came on an 18-yard catch with just more than 10 minutes left in the game and Huff found Gales with an 8-yard pass in the final period. Martinez followed up the Gales’ second score with his fourth uno.
The Lions defense targeted Webb from the Force’s first possession, forcing him out of the pocket and into bad passes. Columbus had five interceptions to show for it — two by Damian Daniels and one each by Ramone Nickerson and Chris Goffer.
“We just had a real good week of practice, and so we played hard on defense,” Nickerson said. “We had a long week and worked on a lot of things to get better and better, and just kept the pressure up.”
Lions backup quarterback Todd Spitzer, who signed with the team Monday, played sparingly, completing one of his three passes, fumbling three snaps and tossing one interception. He finished with 14 yards.
“I liked what I saw, but he just couldn’t get a snap,” Lions coach Jason Gibson said. “That one pass he got off, I liked it. We’ll work on that.”
Columbus quarterback Bill Ashburn did not dress for the game. Gibson had no comment on the quarterback’s status.
at Civic Center
South Carolina 0 14 6 13—33
Columbus 7 8 23 16—54
C - Richard Fitzhugh 3 run (Carlos Martinez kick), 3:44
C - Joel Babb 9 pass from Kevin Huff (Martinez kick), 12:30
C - Martinez uno, 12:30
S - Andrew Webb 2 run (Jad Dean kick), 5:09
S - Kelvin Sessoms 4 pass from Webb (Dean kick), :11
C - Babb 8 pass from Huff (Martinez kick), 12:25
C - Tirone Morris 2 run (Martinez kick), 9:25
C - Martinez uno, 9:25
S - Roy Ravenell 4 run (kick failed), 6:48
C - Gerald Gales 7 pass from Huff (Martinez kick), 3:49
S - Ravenell 1 run (Dean kick), 13:14
C - Babb 17 pass from Huff (Martinez kick), 9:54
C - Martinez uno, 9:54
C - Gales 8 pass from Huff (Martinez kick), 4:39
C - Martinez uno, 4:39
S - Corey McKinney 14 pass from Webb (pass failed), 1:00