Southern Miss

Southern Miss looks to keep rolling vs. Savannah State

Southern Miss running back Ito Smith runs the ball in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky last week in Lexington, Ky.
Southern Miss running back Ito Smith runs the ball in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky last week in Lexington, Ky. Associated Press

The Southern Miss football team looks to keep the momentum rolling when it hosts Savannah State, an FCS squad, at 6 p.m. on Saturday at Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg.

Following an emotional rally to beat Kentucky 44-35 on the road last week, the Golden Eagles will have to find a way to get up for a game against one of the worst programs in FCS, which only has seven wins since 2009.

Savannah State (0-1) is coming off a 54-0 loss to Georgia Southern in the season opener, but USM head coach Jay Hopson is determined to make sure his team doesn't take a step back in week two.

“One thing that football has taught me is you better be ready every week,” Hopson said. “That’s something we have to do. As a coaching staff we were up here late (Sunday) night. We spent just as much time, if not more, preparing for Savannah State. We know we have to be ready.”

Week 2 goals

One goal for USM offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson will be making sure senior quarterback Nick Mullens settles into a groove after a bumpy start to the season. He threw three interceptions in the first half Saturday at Kentucky and finished 18 of 28 for 258 yards with a pair of touchdowns.

USM will also look to get off to a better start on defense after the secondary struggled to adjust to Kentucky's speed in the first half.

“We have to correct our mistakes,” Hopson said. “They say in football that week one to week two is the biggest week for improvement, so we have to do that this week. Lots of positives. Just the way we played is one thing. This isn’t a Jay Hopson thing, but at Southern Miss we pride ourselves on being a physical football team. I think that’s what these players did. You saw Golden Eagle effort out there. They played physical football.”

The USM staff should have a chance to get reserves in the game with a significant lead at halftime. These opportunities provide a chance to build depth in areas where that's lacking, such as running back and defensive tackle.

A pair of freshman defensive tackles, Jauan Collins of Pascagoula and Demarrio Smith, seem likely to see their first playing time. Redshirt junior defensive tackle Draper Riley, who was on crutches on the USM sideline last week, likely won't see his first playing time of the season.

Redshirt sophomore Tez Parks and freshman Andre Hale could also get their first action at running back after the team's top two backs, Ito Smith and George Payne, both rushed for 100 yards at Kentucky.

Former Eagle

Hopson will see a familiar face on the Savannah State sideline with a former player of his at USM, Chad Williams, serving as the team's defensive coordinator.

Williams, a former USM defensive back, played under Hopson when he was the defensive backs coach for the Golden Eagles from 2001-03.

Williams was a sixth-round selection by the Baltimore Ravens in 2002 and he went to play for the team from 2002-05 and played for the San Francisco 49ers in 2006.

“It’s always fun to watch your former players become not only great coaches, but also great men,” Hopson said. “Chad was a true Golden Eagle. He was physical, tough and he was scared of nothing. He proved that when he played in the league with the Ravens. He was a great football player here.”

Game plan

Who: Southern Miss vs. Savannah State

When: 6 p.m., Saturday

Where: Roberts Stadium, Hattiesburg

Radio: 104.9 FM