Top 11 Highlights of the 2011 Football Season
No. 7 - Opportunistic Defense
Jan. 18, 2012
Top Moments Central Page
The 2011 Southern Miss football season was a season for the record books including the most wins in school history, a Conference USA championship, and ending with a Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl victory.
SouthernMiss.com will be showcasing the top 11 highlights of the 2011 football season over the next four weeks with the #1 highlight being released on Wednesday, February 1st, national signing day.
The 2011 Golden Eagle defense simply made plays. When they did that, more often or not, it led to Southern Miss points.
The defense, dubbed the "Nasty Bunch," was just that during this last season as they scored 13 different times on the campaign from the group that is looked upon to prevent points and not produce them. The Golden Eagles registered a NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision record eight interceptions for touchdowns as the squad also returned three blocked punts for scores, picked up a fumble that led to a touchdown and blocked a field goal which resulted in a Golden Eagle touchdown.
Sophomore defensive back Deron Wilson led the way with four of the 19 total interceptions for the Golden Eagles including a return of 79 yards for a score against East Carolina. Jamie Collins also returned an errant ECU pass and returned it 97 yards, which proved to be a school record until Kendrick Presley caught a Memphis pass in the end zone and returned it 100 yards to rewrite that listing in the record books. The Golden Eagles also returned multiple interceptions for touchdowns in three games, doing it against Southeastern Louisiana, ECU and Memphis.
Many people still remember senior Tim Green doing a flip over the Nevada punt block protectors in the Hawai'i Bowl and getting a hold of the Wolf Pack's punt which led to the USM's first points in the bowl game with freshman Tray Becton-Martin falling on the ball in the end zone. That was an encore of freshman Furious Bradley's dramatic punt block in the C-USA Championship game at Houston in which he blocked the ball and then picked it up for the score.
The defense's presence could not have been felt more prominently when they tallied four non-offensive touchdowns at ECU, scoring on a blocked punt there as well.
Individually, senior defensive back Marquese Wheaton did the unthinkable by scoring touchdowns in three consecutive games. He returned a fumble against Rice 75 yards, while picking up a blocked field goal 79 yards the following week at Navy. He finished his trifecta of scoring with a 41-yard interception return for a score at home against SMU. It capped a two-interception game for the Phoenix, Ariz., native. In the final NCAA statistics, the "Nasty Bunch" finished at No. 29 in total defense, to go along with a No. 24 in rushing defense, a No. 7 ranking in pass efficiency defense and No. 26 in scoring defense.