Quarterback competition back open at USM

WATCH: Jay Hopson's news conference - 9/17

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - HATTIESBURG _ When the University of Southern Mississippi welcomes Rice University to M.M. Roberts Stadium Saturday night, sophomore quarterback Jack Abraham is almost certain to start his third consecutive game.

But with senior quarterback Kwadra Griggs back in the fold after a month-long suspension, all bets are off as USM’s season moves forward.

“We've got to get him back going now,” USM head football coach Jay Hopson said during his weekly news conference. “It's a process -- he's been out about a month. We'll watch him closely this week and see how he does and see how he prepares.

“We got a day in with him on Friday and now we're working on getting the rust off. I'm looking forward to see him getting better and better every day.”

In a brief statement, the athletic department announced on Aug. 11 that Griggs had been suspended indefinitely “pending resolution of a student-conduct matter.”

No details regarding the “student-conduct matter” were ever revealed, but apparently the issue was resolved, and on Friday, in another brief statement, it was announced that Griggs “had been reinstated to the football team in good standing.”

Hopson said when or even if Griggs gets back on the playing field “that’s going to be up to him.

“That’s something we’ve just got to see how he does this week and watch him closely. We’re going to give him reps and we’re goig to try and get him back in the groove. We’ll see how quickly he gets back in and ready to roll,” Hopson said.

“Again, he’s not a genie. You can’t just sit out for a month and magically be ready tomorrow. I know one thing: he’s going to compete and work hard to get himself back and ready to roll.”

Abraham, an early transfer from Northwest Mississippi Community College, had been competing with Griggs for the starting quarterback role through the spring and into the preseason.

After Griggs’ suspension, Abraham was anointed as the starter, and in USM’s first two games, he has completed 71.2 percent of his passes (57-of-73) for 620 yards and six touchdowns with two interceptions.

In 2017, Griggs split starting quarterback duties with Keon Howard. He appeared in 10 games with seven starts, throwing for 1,879 yards and 16 touchdowns with two interceptions.

USM offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said he’s never been in this kind of situation.

“Right now, Jack’s our starter,” Dawson said. “I think he’s played well. Has he made some mistakes? Yes, but he’s played well and he’s battled.

“When this competition ended, it ended in a very weird way. I haven’t necessarily been in this situation before, so we have to see how it plays out. But we’re going to be good teammates and we’re going to empathize with the other person. Nobody wants to be in the situation Kwadra was in. Kwadra has to understand the situation Jack was in. Both of them have to understand the situation I was in.

“I know that each of us in this situation is going to have empathy for the other two people involved and that we’re going to do what’s best for those people and do what’s best for this team.”

A looong trip

Rice University’s football team are in the midst of a three-game road jaunt that will have the Owls covering about 8,000 miles.

The journey started with a trip to Hawaii on Sept. 8, continued with a visit to Hattiesburg Saturday and will wrap up with a trip to Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Both the Owls (1-2) and USM (1-1) were off this past weekend. Rice had an open week, while the Golden Eagles had a game at Appalachian State University canceled because of Hurricane Florence.

Auburn kickoff announced

The Golden Eagles’ game next weekend at Auburn University will kick off at 3 p.m. and be carried on the SEC Network.

The Sept.29 game was the final one on USM’s schedule without a definitive kickoff time until Monday’s announcement.

It would mark the first meeting between the teams since 2008, when the Tigers downed USM 27-13 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

The teams have met 22 times with Auburn winning 17, including the past three. The first game was played in 1946, and every meeting has been staged on Alabama soil, with the first three in Montgomery, Ala.

The Tigers currently are ranked No. 9 in the Associated Press poll, and if Auburn remains in the top 25, it would be the first nationally-ranked, non-conference opponent USM has played since the third-ranked University of Alabama in 2014.

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