With Kwadra Griggs returning as the starting quarterback Saturday at Rice, the Southern Miss passing game was at its best – 331 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Korey Robertson was Griggs’ favorite target with eight catches for 159 yards and two touchdowns in the 43-34 win, but the play of true freshman receiver Tim Jones also drew praise from the coaching staff on Monday in the weekly press conference.
Jones caught a pair of passes for 56 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown toss for the first score of his Golden Eagle career.
The Biloxi native drew positive buzz entering the 2017 campaign, but it appeared as if fellow freshmen like Quez Watkins and Jaylond Adams would get more snaps this season.
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“But then about mid to late August, Tim just started coming on,” USM head coach Jay Hopson said Monday. “I said, ‘Man, this kid is going to be a special player.’ Tim is one of those young receivers who is talented.”
The 6-foot-1, 192-pound Jones admits that even he is a bit surprised that he’s getting significant time during his first year in Hattiesburg.
“I kind of expected to be redshirted because they had so many receivers,” Jones said. “I didn’t expect to play right off.”
Jones made his first career catch on Oct. 21 at Louisiana Tech and he’s continued to get more and more playing time.
USM offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson pointed to Jones’ approach to the game as a big reason for his increased snaps.
“First of all, the kid has an amazing attitude,” he said. “Regardless of how many reps he plays in the game or whatever happens, the kid has always got a smile on his face — which important. I just love the way he carries himself. It was good to see him have a lot of success. He’s going to have a lot of success around here.
“I think we need to get more guys like him. Not discounting the other guys, but he’s got an exceptional attitude and exceptional view of how to be a certain player every single day. He brings it every day no matter if we lose or win.”
The wide smile that Jones wears during practice is all part of the plan.
“I try to come out there with a positive attitude,” Jones said Monday. “Some days I’ll have a negative attitude and it will affect me. It affects my practice. I try to come out there and have a positive attitude and do everything I can.”
Jones has five receptions for 121 yards this season and the one catch he’ll always remember will be the touchdown he pulled in Saturday in Houston.
“Before the play, I was getting lined up and (Allenzae Staggers) looked at me and he said, ‘It’s wide open,’” Jones said. “I said, ‘Yes, I know.’ I was just thinking, ‘I know this is going to be a big play.’ I ran the route just like in practice.”
Griggs hit Jones with a “beautiful” pass and he easily outran the Rice secondary to the end zone.
“I didn’t even know what to do to be honest with you,” Jones said. “I was just excited.”
Who: Charlotte vs. Southern Miss
When: 2 p.m., Saturday
Where: Roberts Stadium, Hattiesburg
Radio: WBUV 104.9 FM