HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - For University of Southern Mississippi coach Jay Hopson, the final, regular-season football game at the University of Texas-El Paso is not just a means to an end, but an end in itself.
After pulling off a 21-20 victory Saturday against visiting Louisiana Tech University, the Golden Eagles (5-5, 4-3 Conference USA) are in position to at least have an opportunity to play in a fourth consecutive bowl game if they can take down the Miners (1-10, 1-6) at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Sun Bowl.
A win would give USM the minimum six victories necessary for postseason consideration, but Hopson said his only concern was the game in front of the Golden Eagles, not on a possibility that may or may not happen.
“We’re never going to put the cart in front of the horse,” Hopson said Monday during his final, regular-season news conference. “We’ve got to go to work … UTEP has our utmost respect, so we’ve got to get ready to play.
“Our guys are working hard. I think we’re playing our best football right now. I really do, and we need that to continue.”
The teams will be meeting for the 11th time, with USM holding a 6-4 series edge after winning the past three meetings.
The Golden Eagles are 3-2 in games played in El Paso, Texas, but USM has yet to pocket a road win this season.
An 1,126-mile road trip will not prevent the Golden Eagles from gathering as a team to celebrate Thanksgiving, Hopson said.
“We’re going to be here, and we’re going to have a team Thanksgiving dinner,” Hopson said. “We’ll celebrate that as a football team and that’s always a fun deal.”
Players of the Week for the Louisiana Tech game included:
Offense _ Sophomore receiver Quez Watkins, who had nine catches for 110 yards. It was Watkins’ fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season and the fifth of his career.
Defense _ Junior defensive back Ernest Gunn, who stepped in when starter Rachuan Mitchell was injured. Gunn had three tackles (one solo) and a pass breakup.
Specials teams _ Sophomore place-kicker Briggs Bourgeois, who handled all place-kicking duties with senior Parker Shaunfield sidelined with a groin injury. Bourgeois hit all three of his extra-point attempts and forced touchbacks on four kickoffs.
Hopson said the Golden Eagles’ 2019 signing class was shaping up.
The three-day early signing date is set to open Dec. 20.
“We feel really good,” Hopson said. “We’ve got a lot of commitments and we have a great nucleus,” Hopson said. “We’re getting guys that fit our needs. I can’t talk about anyone (specifically), so it’s always tough when you start talking recruiting.
“But, we’re very happy where we are.”
Name Position, Ht., Wt., School/Hometown
- Dee Baker, RB, 6-0, 170, Northwest Rankin HS/Flowood
- Luke Baker, TE, 6-4, 198, Gulf Coast HS /Naples, FL
- Kendrick Brown, WR, 6-2, 195, Meridian HS/Meridian
- Jarrett Guest, ATH, 6-3, 172, Kennesaw Mountain HS/Acworth, GA
- Khalen Leonard, CB, 6-3, 175, Texas Prep Academy/Alvin, TX
- T.Q. Newsome, ATH, 6-1, 205, Gulfport HS/Gulfport
- Tahveon “Taz” Nicholson, ATH, 4-11, 179, Robert E. Lee HS/Jacksonville, FL
- Jadarrius Perkins, CB, 6-2, 175, Hattiesburg HS/Hattiesburg
- Matthew Ryals, OT, 6-7, 280, Purvis HS/Purvis
- Sam Saxton, QB, 6-5, 190, St. Michael’s Academy/Austin, TX
- Chris Scruggs Jr., WR, 6-2, 175, Superior Collegiate Academy/Clearwater, FL
- Louis Smith, C, 6-3, 294, D ‘Iberville HS/Biloxi
- Avery White, OLB, 6-4, 195, East Central HS/Kiln
- Jakryus Williams, WR, 5-10, 175, Saraland HS/Saraland, AL
- Corey Wilson, RB, 6-0, 175, Warren Central HS/Vicksburg
- Coker Wright, C, 6-4, 275, Brookhaven HS/Brookhaven