RUSTON, LA - It takes more than two hands to count the number of game-changing plays made in USM's 34-27 double-overtime win over Louisiana Tech.
However, there are two plays in particular that stand out - Korey Robertson's touchdown grab in the fourth quarter and the catch that proved to be the game-winner for Southern Miss in the second overtime.
"Honestly, it was a run play at first so Keon [Howard] checked it and he threw the little simple hitch route," Robertson said. "I just saw the end zone, that's all I saw. I didn't think about nothing else."
The Golden Eagles would not have even forced overtime were it not for Robertson's tackle-breaking dash to the end zone in the fourth quarter. The 22-yard scoring play put USM just a two-point conversion behind with 31 seconds to play.
Robertson's catches looked acrobatic on Saturday but they're routine for No. 18, according to sophomore quarterback Keon Howard.
"Tonight we could've executed those two big-time plays with blindfolds on, with our eyes closed," Howard said. So many times throughout the summer and at the end of practice we worked those routes and worked those combinations. It was nothing but timing and nothing but second-nature. Luckily, I found Korey a lot more than anybody else so kudos to Korey."
"Two big plays," said USM head coach Jay Hopson. "Korey's a big strong receiver that can go up and get it and he proved that tonight."
A career-high nine catches for 127 yards on Saturday adds to Robertson's team-leading 37 grabs, 515 yards and seven touchdown receptions. However, it took a collective effort from the USM arsenal to pick up the loss of leading rusher Ito Smith in the second half on Saturday.
Nine different receivers caught passes and junior Tez Parks stepped up in Smith's absence, rushing for 77 yards on 15 carries.
"After halftime we knew Ito wasn't coming back so we knew we had to play real hard," Robertson said. "Ito's a big part of the team and he helps us out a lot. We have other guys that can get in and contribute to the game."
"We got a good football time with some guys other than Ito that can make plays," Hopson said. "That second half I thought we moved the ball extremely well. We didn't probably score as much as we wanted to but we did a great job moving the ball. We got some guys here that can do stuff with the football. I think tonight more so than any night we proved that 'cause we didn't have [Smith] in the second half."