Southern Miss fumbles near the goal line in the third quarter with Tight End Ray Ladner and Paul Gainer trying to recover on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021 at the Hancock Whitney Stadium. Both players are from the Mississippi Gulf Coast. (Hunter Dawkins/The Gazebo Gazette via AP)

by Hunter Dawkins, Publisher

It was a new start for both head coaches, but with a different result than both sides anticipated Saturday evening.  Newly head coach Kane Wommack didn’t have to wait long to get his first victory as South Alabama (USA) spotted Southern Mississippi (USM) an early lead before scoring 31 straight points in a season-opening 31-7 win over the Golden Eagles on Saturday.

“When you think about a game like that, there are so many unknowns walking into the game in the first place,” said first year coach Wommack who played at USM after transferring from Arkansas.  “I thought overall that we didn’t play to the standard that I want us to hold this team to and didn’t think we finished well.”

Southern Miss Golden Eagles Quarterback Trey Lowe tosses an acrobatic pass against the South Alabama Jaguars on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. (Hunter Dawkins/The Gazebo Gazette via AP)

Trey Lowe’s 1-yard TD run gave USM a 7-0 lead after the first quarter. Lowe collected his third career rushing touchdown with 3:55 left to play in the opening quarter on a one-yard run.

USA Quarterback Jake Bentley knotted the score at 7 early in the second quarter with a scoring strike to Trent Tyre and gave the Jaguars the lead for good when he connected with Kareem Walker less than two minutes later.

Defensive Back Davyn Flenord capped the scoring for South Alabama with a pick-6 with 44 seconds left in the game. Bentley completed 10 of 12 passes for 138 yards. USA Receiver Jalen Tolbert had three catches for 84 yards.

South Alabama Defensive Tackle Gi’Narious Johnson (#48) from Gulfport breaks through the offensive line on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021 at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile. (Hunter Dawkins/The Gazebo Gazette via AP)

USM running back Frank Gore Jr. carried 11 times for 61 yards for the Golden Eagles.

The loss spoiled the debut of recently hired Southern Miss Head Coach Will Hall.  

The Mississippi Gulf Coast players were well represented for both teams having 8 players on the field at some point of the game.

For USA, Terrion Avery from Wiggins played running back gaining 17 yards on the ground while Gulfport native Gi’Narious Johnson started at defensive tackle and made three tackles for a defensive unit that held USM to 258 yards total offense.  Center James Jackson started for USA, helping the Jaguars finish with 300 yards total offense.

South Alabama First Year Linebackers Coach Will Windham roaming down the sidelines. Windham was a high school assistant coach for St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis, MS from 2009-2010 before stopping in multiple colleges as an assistant or graduate assistant.

Although Southern Miss didn’t start any of these players, Tyler Barnes of D’Iberville, T.Q. Newsome of Gulfport, Ray Ladner of Kiln Delisle, Paul Gainer of Gautier, and Mason Hunt from Wiggins each contributed time.

Hunt punted eight times for a 47.8% average and a long of 58 for the Golden Eagles.

(Associated Press, Southern Miss Athletics, South Alabama Athletics contributed to the article)