The University of Southern Mississippi Sophomore Receiver Jakarius Caston makes an acrobatic 11 yard touchdown reception with 4:51 left in the game on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (Hunter Dawkins/The Gazebo Gazette via AP)

by Hunter Dawkins, Publisher

After a week of questions about the 31-7 loss in Mobile against South Alabama, the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Golden Eagles shutout the Grambling State Tigers for a 37-0 win and held them to 141 yards total offense at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg.  Additionally, this was USM Head Football Coach Will Hall’s first victory, since he took over the helm in December of 2020.

“This is what people have to realize; that we have a lot of guys that haven’t played a college football game until last week,” stated Hall after beating the Southwest Athletic Conference (SWAC) powerhouse.  “We felt like we could really come off the ball with gap schemes this week and kick out the widest guys to get some yards.”

With a mirror reflection of his legendary father, USM Freshman Running Back Frank Gore, Jr. had 12 rushing attempts in the first half.  Gore pounded up the middle five straight times on the second series of the first quarter followed by a twelve yard touchdown pass from Golden Eagle Quarterback Trey Lowe to Southern Miss Wide Receiver Jason Brownlee with 4:22 left to create an early 7-0 lead.

The extra point was the first of four perfect from USM kicker Briggs Bourgeois.

Defensively, Southern Miss was untouchable with Grambling barley crossing midfield only twice in the first half.  The Golden Eagle defense limited its opponent to under 100 yards on the ground for the second-straight game, allowing 51 rushing yards. It was the first time Southern Miss limited its opponents to under 100 yards since doing it in three-straight games in 2019 against UAB, UTSA and WKU.

Not only was USM reminiscent of “The Big Nasty” defense of the past, Punter Mason Hunt from the Coast tallied a 47.7 yards per point average over three punts and a long of 53 yards and one inside the 20-yard line.

After an eleven play drive; that was halted by a penalty, kicker Bourgeois made a 40-yard field goal with 7:42 left in the half to increase the Southern Miss lead 10-0. It was his fourth-straight made field goal attempt dating back to last season. He finished 3-of-4 for the game – missing a career-long attempt of 50 yards later in the second quarter and then adding a 25-yard and 34-yard tries with both coming in the second half.

The three made field goals is the most made by Bourgeois in a game.

Starting the second half, a new quarterback Freshman Ty Keyes came in for the USM Offense, but the Gore pounding inside the tackle remained.  Following two series and seven attempts, the running back ran behind a counter pull for a 51 yard touchdown scamper with 7:47 left in the third quarter.  At this point, Southern Miss took a 17-0 lead when the extra point was converted and never looked back.

Southern Miss Freshman Running Back Frank Gore, Jr. set a personal career high rushing with 162 yards on the ground and one touchdown on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021 at the M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg, Miss. (Hunter Dawkins/The Gazebo Gazette via AP)

Although Gore ran a few more carries, he finished with 163 yards on 21 carries and the score. It was his longest rush of the year and went over 100 yards for the first time this season and the fourth time of his career. The Golden Eagles improved to 4-0 in Gore’s career when he tallied 100 or more yards on the ground in a game.

Two more field goals and two more touchdowns capped off the night for USM who finished with 439 yards total offense on 73 plays. Trey Lowe threw his first touchdown pass of the season and it was Brownlee’s sixth career TD catch. Lowe only played in the opening half, finishing with 10-of-13 passing for 99 yards, leaving the game with a lower extremity injury.

The Golden Eagles enjoyed 290 yards on the ground as it was the most since collecting 305 in the season finale last year against Florida Atlantic in December of 2010. The game marked the first shutout for the program since defeating UTEP 24-0 on Oct. 14, 2017.

Next week, the regional rivalry between the Southern Miss Golden Eagles and the Troy University Trojans is scheduled for 6pm on Saturday, September 18 at the M.M. Roberts Stadium, aka.  “The Rock.”