Southern Miss senior running back Ito Smith took the direct snap and saw the numbers to his favor on the left side of the line. But first, he gave the Louisiana-Monroe defense a little juke move.
Smith first moved to his right and quickly reversed direction for an easy 27-yard touchdown run to give USM a 14-7 lead at the 12:05 mark of the second quarter.
"I was just being patient, just waiting for something to open up," Smith said. "I saw the cutback so I just took it and I made the guy miss. The rest is history."
It was indeed a historic night for Smith who set a career high with 27 carries for 219 yards and a touchdown in a 28-17 win at ULM
A 44-yard run in the final 2 minutes put Smith over the top in his pursuit of a new personal mark.
"Ito had an Ito day," Hopson said. "It's good to see him make some great runs. One thing about Ito is sometimes you think he's tackled and he pops out there and he goes down the sideline for 50."
After failing to hit the 100-yard mark in his first two games of the season, Smith had 11 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown at the half on Saturday.
Smith was at his best, regularly getting ULM defenders off balance and working his way for significant yardage.
"I love watching Ito run," USM defensive end LaDarius Harris said. "In my eyes, he's one of the best running backs in the country. A lot that he does is individual effort, making guys miss. He's really good at it. That's what I've been seeing in the three years I've been here."
Smith, who caught three passes for 13 yards, also reached the 5,000-yard mark for all-purpose yardage with the big game.
Barnes shows up again
After tying for the Golden Eagles' lead in tackles last week in a 45-0 win over Southern, D'Iberville product Tyler Barnes again made his presence known Saturday.
The freshman defensive back recovered a muffed punt by ULM's Marcus Green to set up the USM offense at the ULM 43 with 2:15 left in the third quarter.
The ball bounced out of the hands out of a pair of USM players before Barnes hopped on the stray ball.
USM redshirt junior quarterback Kwadra Griggs started the game hot on the opening drive, putting up exactly the same numbers in the air and on the ground.
The Greenwood native completed 3-of-3 passes for 32 yards and a touchdown while also running two times for 32 yards.
Griggs' TD toss was 15 yards to his former high school teammate, Korey Robertson.
Robertson has quickly become Griggs' favorite target. After catching three passes for 72 yards and two touchdowns Saturday, the redshirt junior has 13 receptions for 209 yards and four scores.
After the USM defense prevented Southern from converting on a single third-down on 12 tries last week, the Golden Eagles were back at it on Saturday.
ULM converted on just three of 16 third-down attempts against USM.
Opponents have converted on just six of 40 third down tries this season against the Golden Eagles.
Federico on hand
Former Southern Miss pitching coach Michael Federico was on hand for Saturday's game in Monroe.
He was hired in June as the new ULM baseball head coach in June after serving eight years on the USM staff.
Sporting a ULM shirt, Federico watched the game from one of the suites at Malone Stadium.