HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - University of Southern Mississippi football coach Jay Hopson said his Golden Eagles had moved beyond Saturday’s season-opening victory over Alcorn State University.
But before starting in on the full-bore preparation for Saturday’s visit to Mississippi State University, Hopson said the Golden Eagles did a bit of scrub job while watching the film of the 38-10 ASU victory.
“We moved on (Sunday), but that first game, you look a lot at it,” Hopson said. “You make sure you're correcting your week one mistakes, so that later in the year you can get to the next opponent quicker.
“I felt better after seeing it on game tape, and I feel like we are getting close. I was a lot happier Sunday morning than Saturday night."
Not that Hopson was about to throw a victory fish back in the water Saturday. But USM’s offense really didn’t start picking up until midway through the third quarter and, at times, the Golden Eagles’ defense had trouble getting the Braves’ offense off the field.
"It's always good to win the first one,” Hopson said. “I expected what we saw Saturday. We played a good football team and did some really good things … and I felt like when we went back and watched film, there were some positives.
“We have some things to clean up, but that's the first game, and it was a good, hard-fought win."
Now, it’s on to face an intra-state rival that the Golden Eagles have not defeated since 1988, dropping the last four meetings with the Bulldogs, including a 49-0 whitewash in USM’s last visit to Starkville in 2014.
"They're a good football team,” Hopson said. “They are physical and talented, and we know who we're going up against.
“They’re a football team that has our utmost respect."
When last we saw Trivenskey Mosley, the sophomore running back was sporting a brace on his lower right leg while maneuvering on crutches after being helped off the field in the first quarter.
And while Hopson has adopted a no-fly-zone when it comes to inquiries on injury, it was apparent Monday that USM is not expecting Mosley to be ready to rock-and-roll in Starkville Saturday afternoon.
“We are kind of a running back-by-committee right now,” Hopson said. “Those guys all bring different elements."
“Those guys” include sophomore Steven Anderson, junior Kevin Perkins, freshman Jordan Kempf and true freshman Dee Baker, who combined for 90 yards on 23 carries against Alcorn State. Of those, 79 yards came in the second half, 59 yards in the fourth quarter.
“We didn't get a lot of opportunities in the first half, but we got better in the third and fourth quarters.” Hopson said of the Alcorn State game. “We had a few drops on offense, but I thought we threw the ball well at the end, with our other running backs getting some big plays.
“We just have to get better from Week 1 to Week 2, and that's our journey."
In State’s 38-28 victory over the University of Louisiana-Lafayette Saturday, the Cajuns netted 168 yards rushing. Three of UL-L’s touchdowns came on the ground.
USM’s players of the week for the Alcorn State game included:
Offense _ Junior quarterback Jack Abraham, who completed 18-of-28 passes for 293 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown to Neil McLaurin. It was one of five passes of 20 or more yards in the game and marked the eighth time in 10 career appearances with USM that Abraham cracked the 200-yard plateau.
Abraham also matched his career-long run, when he sprinted 14 yards for a third-quarter touchdown.
Defense _ Senior “nickel” back D.Q. Thomas, who finished with a team-high seven tackles, including two tackles for loss for a minus 10 yards. He also came down with his first career interception in the second quarter.
Special teams _ Freshman place-kicker Andrew Stein, who went 3-of-3 on field-goal attempts of 19 yards, 20 yards and 24 yards and also nailed both extra-point attempts. Five of his seven kickoffs went for touchbacks.
Hopson agreed that Jaylond Adams, who returned a punt and kickoff for touchdowns of 80 yard and 89 yards, respectively, was the more obvious candidate.
“I feel Jaylond should be the national one, or the conference one, so when we have a situation like that, we have to give our dog a bone,” Hopson said. “For a true freshman to kick like (Stein) did, he was well-deserving."
Shortly after Hopson’s explanation, Adams was revealed as Conference UA’s Special Teams Player of the Week.
Adams averaged 46.5 yards on two punt returns, had the one return on kickoff and caught three passes for another 21 yards. All told, Adams accounted for 202 all-purpose yards.
Not too shabby for a guy in his first game back after seeing his 2018 season shutdown halfway through thanks to a lower-leg injury.
“Coming into the season, I was just ready to get back on the field my bros,” Adams said. “I was just taking each day one day a time.”