by Hunter Dawkins
With a home crowd of just under 28,000 at the M.M. Roberts Stadium, the Southern Miss (USM) Golden Eagles football team had multiple reasons to bring their “A” game Saturday afternoon. The “Big Nasty” defense from USM (6-3, 4-1) showed their punch by only allowing 173 total yards from the University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers (6-3, 3-2) offense and forcing three turnovers.
Southern Miss finds itself bowl eligible now for the 23rd time in the last 26 years and still competing for a conference championship. The Golden Eagles got revenge for their overtime loss last year to the Blazers and a chance at the conference championship.
“We played well in all facets of the game, but I felt the defense was going to show a little more,” said the USM Golden Eagles Head Football Coach Jay Hopson. “The defense prepared well this week in practice.”
Coming off a three game losing streak to the Blazers, both teams swapped possessions until Southern Miss defender Shannon Showers intercepted the Blazers pass from inside the UAB red zone at 10:29 left in the first quarter. This turnover led to the first USM score, with a 6-yard touchdown run from the Golden Eagles Running Back Steven Anderson. After kicker Andrew Stein put the extra point through the uprights, the score was 7-0 USM lead with 9:09 left in the first quarter.
As the Golden Eagles got the ball toward the end of the quarter, USM went on a ten play drive that resulted in Stein kicking a 35-yard field goal with 14:06 left in the half. The new score was 10-0 and a Southern Miss lead.
The momentum was hanging in the balance until USM defensive back DQ Thomas intercepted a UAB pass and returned for a 55-yard touchdown. Following the conversion of the extra point, the lead was increased by Southern Miss 17-0 with 11:01 in the half.
The “Big Nasty” opened the gates, collecting four sacks and eleven tackles for a loss. Mississippi Gulf Coast natives Jacques Turner and Darius Kennedy had 6 total tackles and 3 sacks to contribute to the defense.
Following a USM offensive safety and a 44-yard field goal by Golden Eagles Stein, the halftime score was 20-2.
Southern Miss had their way with UAB in the second half, scoring 20 unanswered points against the Blazers to earn a 37-2 victory. Even after the result was only in a chip shot field goal on the first possession after the half, USM threw two touchdown passes from Quarterback Jack Abraham to Receivers Quez Watkins and Tim Jones of Biloxi.
Abraham finished with 164 yards passing and the second half two touchdowns while rushing for merely 24 yards. Jones led receivers with 6 receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown, which was his first of the season.
USM has three more games remaining with only one home game left. The Golden Eagles will play on the road against the University of Texas-San Antonio next Saturday at 5pm.