Southern Miss

Southern Miss announces new starting quarterback

Southern Miss quarterback Kwadra Griggs looks for a receiver during the fourth quarter of their game against Kentucky at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg on Saturday.
Southern Miss quarterback Kwadra Griggs looks for a receiver during the fourth quarter of their game against Kentucky at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg on Saturday. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

Kwadra Griggs, who played impressively in the second half in Southern Miss’ 24-17 season-opening football loss to Kentucky on Saturday, will start this week’s home game against Southern (La.) University.

Griggs replaced Keon Howard on the final play of the first half against Kentucky and completed 15-of-26 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns.

The only downside was that he fumbled twice, losing one that was returned for a touchdown.

“He probably earned that (start),” Golden Eagles head coach Jay Hopson said bout Griggs during Monday’s press conference. “He really had an outstanding second half. I thought Kee did a lot of good things, too. So we’ll just let them compete, Kee will be ready when his opportunity comes.”

Howard, a sophomore from Laurel, started a couple of games last season when starting quarterback Nick Mullens was injured. Howard completed 7-of-14 passes for 87 yards in the first half against Kentucky.

Griggs, a redshirt junior from Greenwood and Itawamba Community College, was redshirted at USM last year. But his play against Kentucky — Southern Miss trailed 14-3 when he entered the game — impressed Hopson.

“He did a great job running our offense, getting the ball to the right people,” Hopson said. “Kwadra is one of those kids that has a natural feel, he really does. I thought he threw the ball well, I thought he did a good job running the ball, directing the team. The biggest thing is that I thought he was just a little more consistent on his reads.

“Football is a journey and we’re going to evaluate things weekly, but I think he’s a young man that has earned the opportunity to start this week. So we’re going to give it to him.”

Southern Miss offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said switching quarterbacks was not a knee-jerk move.

“We knew going into the game we’ve got two good quarterbacks and if we were struggling, put the other one in,” Dawson said.

So that’s what happened, and even though Southern Miss lost the game, Griggs played well enough to give hope for the future.

“He hadn’t played football in a long time,” Dawson said. “It’s been over a year since he’s played a competitive snap. I thought he did some really good things. I was really impressed when things broke down, he made three or four plays that really kept drives going.”

Southern Miss notes

▪  Southern Miss receivers had no dropped balls against Kentucky.

▪  The Golden Eagle defense gave up only one play of more than 25 yards.

▪  Ten wide receivers — six outside and four inside — played against Kentucky.

▪  This week’s opponent, Southern (La.), will have four down linemen. Kentucky had three.

▪  Defensively, Southern Miss played 11 down linemen, four linebackers and seven defensive backs against Kentucky.

▪  Nickelback Picasso Nelson Jr., running back Tez Parks and boundary cornerback Trae Collins did not play against Kentucky. Hopson said he is hoping they will be ready to play at 6 p.m. Saturday against Southern.

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