HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The most important game on The University of Southern Mississippi's schedule is always the next game, which means the focus shifted Sunday to Saturday's visit from Troy University.
But just in case any of his players decided to bask a little longer in the afterglow of USM's 56-0 victory over Savannah State, Hopson and his coaches have a sure-fire method of regaining that attention if necessary.
The Trojans, who opened the season with a 57-17 thumping of Austin Peay, chased then-No. 2 Clemson down to the wire last weekend before falling 30-24.
"It certainly wakes up what we already knew, but it kind of wakes up the entire country," Hopson said Monday afternoon during his weekly news conference at the Duff Athletic Center. "We understand we have a really good football team coming in."
Troy is averaging 546 yards total offense a game, with running back Jordan Chunn averaging 102.5 yards rushing a game. Quarterback Brandon Silvers has completed 63.8 percent of his passes, averaging 231 yards passing and two touchdowns a game.
"We're very aware of who's coming into The Rock Saturday," USM senior quarterback Nick Mullens said. "You want to prepare every game the same, but (the Clemson game) deserves respect, deserves attention. But we knew that going in. We knew they were going to be a good team."
Saturday's 6 p.m. kickoff will mark the first meeting between the two teams since the 2008 New Orleans Bowl, when the Golden Eagles rallied for a 30-27 overtime victory.
Hopson said that he expected defensive tackle Jerry McCorvey to be able to play Saturday against the Trojans.
McCorvey missed the Savannah State game with a banged up ankle.
Players of the Week
Offense: Senior guard Oliver Bates, who was lauded for his blocking against Savannah State.
"You watch the tape, sometimes he's blocking 30, 40 yards downfield, which is just unbelievable," USM offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. "I just thought his overall effort, from the beginning to the end of the game, was unbelievable. Our depth level, especially up front, we can't wholesale sub everybody, so we had to have some guys, even some starters, play through the course of the game, and at the end of the game when he was in there, he was blocking guys 30 yards down the field. It just showed me, the kid loves to play football."
Defense: Junior end Xavier Thigpen, who came with a sack against Savannah State.
"He's another one who does a great job getting to the passer," USM defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro said. "One time, they max (protected) and he beat everyone to get there. He's another one. Great leadership skills, goes hard every play. Very talented football player. Definitely very blessed to have him on this team."
Special teams: Senior Kickoff man/punter Tyler Sarrazin and junior punt returner Allenzae Staggers.
Sarrazin averaged 40.5 yards on two punts and on nine kickoffs, only four were returned for a 14.5-yard average.
Allenzae returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, the first Golden Eagle to do since 2011.
Richard debuts in Black and Silver
Mullens spent part of his Sunday afternoon in front of the television, checking out the New Orleans Saints-Oakland Raiders game, when a familiar sight brought him to his feet.
Former USM running back Jalen Richard, who signed as a free agent with the Raiders after a stellar senior season in 2015 with the Golden Eagles, took the first handoff of his NFL career straight through the heart of the Saints' defense for a 75-yard touchdown.
"I was jumping up and down, screaming, 'I know that guy,'" Mullens said. "It's awesome to see guys you really care about do good things."
Mullens said the run reminded him of Richard's 2015 performance against Texas State, when one of his four touchdowns in that game came on a similar, long run through the middle.
"It reminded me of that run a lot," Mullens said. "Jalen's very explosive, very dynamic, as a pass catcher, blocker, runner. He can make you miss or run you over."
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