Southern Miss Football Entertains Southern Saturday
HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Though Saturday will mark the first time Southern Miss and Southern University have met on the football field, Golden Eagles head coach Jay Hopson is well-acquainted with the Jaguars.
Hopson, in his second season at the Southern Miss helm, spent four seasons as the head football coach at Alcorn State, where his Braves crossed paths with Jaguars five times in Southwestern Athletic Conference play.
“Southern is always, consistently, a nine-, 10-win football team,” Hopson said. “(Southern U. coach Dawson Odums) does an outstanding job coaching their football team and has our football team’s utmost respect.
“They’ve always had a lot of playmakers. They’re a physical football team and we know we have a good football team coming to town.”
Hopson said he could not recall how his Alcorn teams had fared against Southern, but during his tenure from 2012 to 2015, the Braves went 5-0 against the Jaguars, including four regular-season victories and a 38-24 decision in the 2014 SWAC championship game.
Hopson will look to get the Golden Eagles (0-1) back on the winning track when they kick off with Southern (1-0) at 6 p.m. at M.M. Roberts Stadium.
Southern Miss allowed only 254 yards total offense to the University of Kentucky, but turnovers, penalties and miscues led to a 24-17 loss to the visiting Wildcats in the season opener.
Kentucky’s visit Hattiesburg was the first by a Southeastern Conference football team from outside the state lines.
Southern, which claimed a 14-8 victory Sunday over visiting South Carolina State in Baton Rouge, La., will become the fourth SWAC football team to play at M.M. Roberts, joining the ranks of Jackson State University (1987, 2002), Alcorn State (2009, 2014) and Prairie View A&M University.
Southern Miss defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro, who spent four years with Hopson at Alcorn State as the Braves’ defensive coordinator, said he vividly recalls ASU’s 2014 trip to Hattiesburg.
“Their head coach (Southern’s) and about four other assistants over there extremely well, so I know (the Jaguars) are going to be an extremely well-coached football team.
“I know when we were at Alcorn, we had the opportunity to come here and play, and we got ‘em ready to play because it’s a great opportunity. So, Southern has that opportunity now to come over here and play and they’re going to have them ready.”
Southern Miss redshirt junior quarterback Kwadra Griggs is scheduled to make his first career start for the Golden Eagles.
Griggs, who started the second half against Kentucky in lieu of sophomore Keon Howard, completed 15 of 26 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
“He did a great job running our offense and getting the ball to the right people,” Hopson said of Griggs. “Kwadra is one of those kids who has a good, natural feel, he really does.
“I thought he threw the ball well. He did a good job running the ball and directing our team.”
Two Southern Miss receivers, redshirt junior Korey Robertson and redshirt freshman Quez Watkins, each topped the 100-yard mark in receiving yards. Robertson had seven catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns, while Watkins had four catches for 103 yards.
Southern netted just 297 yard total offense in its season opener, but got first-half rushing touchdowns from running back Devon Benn (27 yards) and quarterback Austin Howard (6 yards) to hold off S.C. State.
The Jaguars had the football on offense about seven minutes longer than the Bulldogs, and ran 74 plays to S.C. State’s 57.
“They can throw it and they can run it,” Hopson said of the Jaguars. “Austin Howard, their quarterback, does a great job. He’s a four-year starter, if I’m not mistaken, a guy who leads their ship and I just an outstanding football player.
“They have good running backs, good receivers, and up front, they play hard and tough. Again, we know we have a good team coming to town.”