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Southern Miss Shuts Out Southern 45-0 Saturday at The Rock

Sept. 9, 2017

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HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Southern Miss took advantage of Southern University miscues early and then proceeded to dominate the Jaguars throughout as the Golden Eagles dominated 45-0 Saturday night before 24,337 at M.M. Roberts Stadium.

Junior quarterback Kwadra Griggs threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns in his first career start, and the Golden Eagles (1-1) scored in all three phases of the game to bounce back from a season-opening loss to Kentucky.

“Our guys played physical,” Southern Miss coach Jay Hopson said. “It was good to see us come out. Special teams score was a big plus, and, eventually, we had a pick-six, and those are good things.

“As a whole, I was pretty pleased with the effort.”

Southern Miss piled up 477 yards total offense and 27 first downs in a game that saw major player rotation through the first half and massive substitution in the second as the Golden Eagles _ members of the Football Bowl Subdivision _ stymied the Football Championship Subdivision Jaguars.

It was Southern Miss’ first shutout since defeating FCS-member Savannah State 56-0 in the second game of the 2016 season.

“That’s the reality of playing against a really good football team,” Southern U. coach Dawson Odums said. “They’re a team that’s up and coming.

“It was tough sledding out there (Saturday).”

Senior defensive end Xavier Thigpen recovered a fumbled punt snap in the end zone for USM’s first touchdown. It was the second career touchdown for Thigpen, who caught a 6-yard touchdown pass off a fake field goal against Rice in 2015.

It was USM’s first fumble recovery for a score since Marquese Wheaton went 75 yards with one against Rice in 2011.

Senior safety Tarvarius Moore set up USM’s third score of the game when he intercepted a tipped pass at the Southern U 12-yard line. It was Moore’s third career interception and his second takeaway of the season after recovering a fumble in the season opener against Kentucky.

Kwadra Griggs, who completed 15 of 23 passes Saturday and has yet to throw an interception in the first 49 attempts of his USM career. He helped the Golden Eagles to a 35-0 halftime lead with touchdown passes of 20 yards to senior Allenzae Staggers and 26 yards to freshman Quez Watkins.

“Offensive line did a great job blocking for me,” Griggs said. “Offense did a good job overall. I think I did good, but still left a couple of plays out there and a couple points.”

Senior running back Ito Smith scored on a 27-yard for his 30th career rushing touchdown and junior T’Rod Daniels scored his first career USM touchdown on a 49-yard run.

Smith’s touchdown tied him for fourth for all-time rushing touchdowns at USM, joining Derrick Nix (1998-2000, 2002) and Ben Garry (1974-77). Damion Fletcher leads with 44 career rushing touchdowns.

Junior cornerback Cornell Armstrong returned his fourth career interception 46 yards for a touchdown on the first possession of the second half and Parker Shaunfield added a 28-yard field goal on the last play of the third quarter.

The touchdown was the second of Armstrong’s career. He returned a blocked field goal against Texas-El Paso in 2014.

The Jaguars’ offense, which played without injured starting quarterback Austin Howard, struggled throughout the game.

Southern U. (1-1) had minus 8 yards total offense in the first quarter and had to wait until just less than 10 minutes was left to play in second quarter to record its initial first down.

At game’s end, Southern U. had 140 yards total offense and seven first downs, failing to convert any of a dozen third-down opportunities.

Daniels led the Golden Eagles’ rushers, picking up 83 yards on just 10 carries. Smith, who was limited to 37 yards rushing by the University of Kentucky last week, ran for 77 yards on 17 carries. Both runners’ longest runs of the evening came on their touchdowns.

Staggers, who was held without a catch in the Golden Eagles’ opener, led USM with five catches for 62 yards. Freshman Jaylond Adams had two catches for 51 yards. After only four players caught a pass against Kentucky, 11 players had at least one catch Saturday and five players had two or more.

USM will take to the road next week for the first time this season, traveling to play the University of Louisiana-Monroe at 6 p.m. Saturday.

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