Nasty Bunch leads Southern Miss to shutout win

By CAMAL PETRO,

HATTIESBURG – The Southern Miss offense didn’t necessarily need a cushion from its defense Friday night against Southern University, but it definitely received one.

The “Nasty Bunch” held the Jaguars to 140 total yards of offense – 62 rushing and 78 passing – in USM’s 45-0 win. The Golden Eagles are now 1-1 on the young season, and they’ll travel to Louisiana-Monroe next Saturday for a 6 p.m. kick.

“We had a couple miscues last week that I thought we cleaned up a little bit. I didn’t see them with our 1s out there today,” Southern Miss coach Jay Hopson said. “We know there’s still plenty (to work on).”

Southern U didn’t record a first down until the 9:40 mark in the second quarter, which was the team’s seventh drive of the game, and that was the first time the Jaguars finished a drive with positive yards. Before that drive, SU had -8 yards of total offense.

The Eagles’ defense also held SU to 0-of-12 on third downs, recorded two sacks and five tackles for a loss, forced three turnovers and held the Jaguars to 2.7 yards per play.

“The defense juices us up,” Southern Miss quarterback Kwadra Griggs said. “We practice against those guys every day, and I know how good they are. They showed it today. We just try to vibe off them, and they vibe off us at times.”

Through the first six drives, SU had a fumble, an interception and four three-and-outs. Of SU’s nine possession in the first half, four ended with positive yards, four ended with negative yards and one totaled zero.

On SU’s opening possession of the game, it was forced to punt from the 1-yard line, but the punter dropped a perfect snap and USM’s Xavier Thigpen fell on the ball for a touchdown to give Southern Miss a 7-0 lead.

After Southern Miss scored its first touchdown on offense, the defense stepped up with an interception deep in SU territory. Defensive end Jacques Turner tipped a SU pass, then Tarvarius Moore caught the pick to give the Eagles the ball at their opponent’s 12-yard line.

After building a 35-0 lead by halftime, Cornell Armstrong picked off a Southern U pass on its first drive, and he returned it for a 46-yard pick-6 to push the lead to 42-0.

“I thought (the defense) played physical tonight, so anytime that happens, you’re pretty pleased with the effort,” Hopson said. “I thought we flew around well.”

Quarterback Kwadra Griggs

After a solid performance in the second half against Kentucky last week, Griggs was named the starter for this week’s game with SU. His offense was forced to punt on the opening possession, but then he led the offense to three straight touchdown drives in the first quarter to quickly push the lead to 28-0. Then he led the offense to another score in the second quarter to take a commanding 35-0 lead.

He had touchdown passes of 20 and 26 yards to Allenzae Staggers and Quez Watkins, respectively, during those four scoring drives. Ito Smith had a rushing touchdown from the 27-yard line, and T’Rod Daniels scored from 49 yards out to finish off the first-half scoring.

“He’s got that gear,” Hopson said. “T-Rod is one of those guys when he gets loose, he’s gone. He’s a guy who we certainly need that big-play ability.”

Daniels was all smiles after the game when discussing his touchdown run.

“A sniper would have had to take me down,” Daniels joked.

Griggs finished the night with 209 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns on 15-of-23 passing. He played the first 11 drives of the game, as Keon Howard entered the game at the end of the third quarter with the 42-0 lead.

It was the first win by a starting quarterback not named Nick Mullens or Austin Davis since Nov. 21, 2009, as Martevious Young led Southern Miss to a 44-33 win over Tulsa.

“I think the offensive line did a great job of blocking for me,” Griggs said. “The offense did well overall as a unit. I still think I did well, but I left a couple of plays out there. I’ll get better as the week progresses.”  

Hopson said after the game the competition is still open, though.

“I thought (Griggs) played well,” he said. “There’s still a competition, but I thought he did a good job today. Ever since the second half of Kentucky, and the first half of this week, he really played well. We just have to continue to keep growing.”