New Southern Miss starting quarterback Kwadra Griggs gets a chance Saturday night to show that last week's second-half performance against Kentucky was no fluke.
Griggs will make his first start as a Golden Eagle when USM (0-1) hosts Southern University (1-0) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Roberts Stadium.
Griggs completed 15 of 26 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns to breathe life into a USM offense that managed just 3 points in the first half against Kentucky with sophomore Keon Howard behind center. Griggs did have a pair of fumbles, losing one that was returned for a touchdown late in the the third quarter in the 24-17 loss.
He may not have been perfect last week, but Griggs showed plenty of promise with his creativity and accuracy. He also showed that he can run the ball when necessary, taking off at one point. for a 10-yard gain while working through tackles.
“I just try to trust the process of the coaches,” Griggs said. “They put me in the best situation possible. I just try to lead this team.”
While Quez Watkins and Korey Robertson got going at receiver with each putting up 100-yard games, Griggs will try to get the other playmakers involved on offense. Senior receiver Allenzae Staggers, who had over 1,000 yards receiving last year, didn't catch a pass last week and senior running back Ito Smith was held to 37 yards rushing on 16 carries.
Griggs is confident the offense can improve on last week's 364-yard performance.
“We're going to be good,” he said. “We can move the ball. The receivers have incredible hands and they're willing to make plays. We're going to be good, real good.”
As is the case with any FCS opponent, it's a case of USM trying to not get in its own way Saturday night.
The Southern University defense may present a challenge for Griggs and company after pulling off a 14-8 win over South Carolina State in the season opener.
SU senior quarterback Austin Howard led the Jaguars on offense, completing 18 of 31 passes for 198 yards and one interception. The Jaguars didn't get much going in the ground game, but senior Herbert Edwards had 24 carries for 65 yards.
Southern University finished 8-3 last season, coming up one loss shy of reaching the SWAC title contest.
Saturday's game has drawn improved ticket sales over a week ago when only 22,761 showed up to watch the Golden Eagles lose to Kentucky. USM sent out a release on Thursday afternoon encouraging fans to buy tickets in advance in anticipation of a large walk-up crowd.
It's not unusual for USM to draw large crowds against SWAC programs like Southern, which is located in Baton Rouge. The 2009 home game against Alcorn State drew the second largest crowd in Roberts Stadium history – 36,232. The 2002 and 1987 games against Jackson State rank among the top 10 home crowds in USM history – 35,169 and 33,687.
USM is 5-0 against SWAC schools, but this will be the first time USM has played Southern University.
Finding the channel
Saturday’s game will be broadcast on Stadium, a new digital network created by the merger of American Sports Network, Campus Insiders and 120 Sports.