USM Press Release
Southern Miss football coach Jay Hopson said he got about what he expected from the annual Black and Gold Game Saturday afternoon at Roberts Stadium.
“It’s a fun game,” Hopson said shortly after watching the Gold split-squad take a 10-7 victory over its Black doppelganger. “It’s just a game to let the kids kind of talk a little trash to each other, get out there and have some fun. It serves its purpose.”
Hopson was much more enamored with what his Golden Eagles got done during the preceding weeks of spring practice.
“We had a good spring,” Hopson said. “Certainly, you want to continue to get better at everything. But that’s just football. You want to progress through the spring and through the summer, see guys prepare themselves and get ready for 2016.”
It was a spring of quiet urgency, with Hopson taking the program’s reins only days before National Signing Day just weeks after third-year head coach Todd Monken departed unexpectedly for the National Football League.
A solid core of players from 2015’s Conference USA West Division champions having to adjust to a new coaching regime that wasn’t entirely in place until shortly before spring drills opened.
Quarterback Nick Mullens, who is expected under center for a fourth consecutive fall, said while the adjustment was far short of traumatic, the Golden Eagles would continue to work on smoothing out the creaks and cricks before the Sept. 3 season opener at Kentucky.
“We’ve been working hard through the scrimmages and practices, have had some really intense team sessions,” Mullens said. “I’ve enjoyed it, getting the team in the right play, having confidence in the playmakers to make those plays.
“We have to continue to work hard, to clean things up, make everything crisp.”
Mullens, who played for the Gold squad, completed 6 of 10 passes for 35 yards with an interception on a day when defense dominated.
Both teams combined for only three scores, all in the first half.
The Black took a 7-0 when redshirt freshman receiver Reid Rials got loose to haul in a 56-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kwadra Griggs, a transfer from Itawamba Community College.
Griggs, who gained an edge this spring to back up Mullens this fall, completed 13 of 27 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown with an interception.
The Gold cut the lead to 7-3 at the end of the first quarter on a 26-yard field goal by senior Stephen Brauchle, then scored the winning points on a 30-yard run by walk-on sophomore running back Johna Myers, a Petal native and East Mississippi Community College transfer.
The defenses combined for seven sacks Saturday, including four by the Black.
“With the new defense, we’ve done pretty good this spring,” said defensive end Ja’Boree Poole, who was credited with six tackles, including two sacks.
Redshirt freshman running back Patrick Brooks, who played for the Gold, led all rushers with 79 yards on 13 carries. Junior starter Ito Smith, playing for the Black, gained 21 yards on seven carries
East Mississippi transfer Isaiah Jones had five catches for 37 yards, while Rials finished with two grabs for 61 yards and a touchdown for the Black team. The Gold was led by junior Marquise Richard with three catches for 20 yards and junior Tyre’oune Holmes with two catches for 47 yards.