by Hunter Dawkins
The Southern Miss Golden Eagles wasted no time in placing themselves “to the top” over the Jackson State Tigers Saturday evening. With a clinic-style performance from USM quarterback Jack Abraham (21-27, 242 yards, 4 TDs) and receiver/returner Quez Watkins (8 receptions, 138 yards, 4 overall touchdowns), the Golden Eagles dominated the Tigers 55-7.
“We started fast on offense and we were really good on defense,” said Southern Miss Head Football Coach Jay Hopson. “We really executed well and it was a good opportunity to play a lot of guys in the second half.”
As the “Rock”, better known as M.M. Roberts Stadium was nearly packed, just shy of 30,000 people, USM began with the first possession for the 102nd year of Golden Eagles football and they didn’t disappoint. After six plays and driving 57 yards, Abraham hit Watkins on a 28-yard strike for the first USM touchdown for the day. Once Parker Shaunfield converted his first extra point through the uprights, USM took the early lead 7-0 with 12:16 left in the first quarter.
Getting pinned back at their own two-yard line, Southern Miss drove 98-yards in 16 plays before Watkins caught his second pass from Abraham coming from 22-yards in the back corner of the end zone. Shaunfield extra point sailed through the uprights with 3:00 left in the first quarter for an increased USM lead 14-0.
Off a Jackson State turnover, USM drove four plays, but only gaining three yards. However, enough distance for Shaunfield to nail a 46-yard field goal with 14:07 left in the half and the new lead with Southern Miss up 17-0.
The next ten minutes of the half provided more than the Tigers could handle, as three Golden Eagles touchdowns from Watkins on an 81-yard touchdown, defensive back Xavier Marion on a 26-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown, and Jordan Mitchell on a 2-yard pass from Abraham to build the lead for USM 38-0.
The Tigers had a hard time with keeping the Golden Eagles off the scoreboard the first half, as Southern Miss took control of the last possession, running five plays until Shaunfield kicked a 30-yard field goal with no time left on the clock.
After the halftime performance, not much improved for Jackson State. USM’s Watkins scored his fourth and final touchdown of the day on a 24-yard pass from Abraham. Golden Eagles kicker Shaunfield’s conversion of the extra point put the score at 48-0 and sealed the Tigers fate.
Jackson State quarterback Jarrad Hayes did find receiver Kobe Gates for a 9-yard score at the end of the third quarter, but the Golden Eagles answered back with backup Tate Whatley running a 15-yard zone read for a touchdown. Shaunfield’s extra point conversion with 2:48 left in the game made the final score 55-7.
The Golden Eagles finished with 457 yards total offense, compared to the Tigers 199. USM caused four turnovers and two sacks.
Southern Miss (1-0) will welcome ULM at 6 p.m. Saturday. The Warhawks (1-0) defeated Southeastern Louisiana 34-31 Thursday.