Kwadra Griggs won't make Southern Miss fans forget Nick Mullens at quarterback, but he's doing more than enough to put his team in a position to win.
Griggs completed 17-of-32 passes for 250 yards, three touchdowns and an interception as USM topped Louisiana-Monroe 28-17 before a crowd of 11,061 on Saturday night at Malone Stadium. Griggs also ran ran 14 times for 57 yards, breaking off big gainers against the Warhawks in the first half.
"(Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson) told me I'd have a big game running this week," Griggs said. "He told me he was going to run me a lot. That's what he did. I didn't score, but he called a good game tonight."
USM only managed one touchdown in the second half, leaving room for improvement entering the bye week.
"It feels good to get a W," Griggs said. "We didn't play our best game today, but we came out on top. I think we can still play a tremendous game. Offense, we played good but we've got things we can work on going forward."
Griggs had two touchdown tosses to Korey Robertson of 15 and 20 yards and capped off the scoring with a 42-yard scoring pass to Allenzae Staggers with 5:31 left in the third quarter.
Griggs' passing complemented a potent USM rushing attack as senior running back Ito Smith set a career rushing mark with 27 carries for 219 yards and one 27-yard touchdown.
"I didn't even know," Smith said of his record-setting night. "I had a couple of big runs. The offensive line did a great job tonight."
The balanced offensive attack by USM featured 250 yards through the air and 284 yards rushing on 48 carries.
While the offense put enough points on the board to come out with the victory, it was the play of the defense in a crucial situation that was likely the most pivotal moment of the game.
ULM had 4th-and-goal at the USM 1 with 4 minutes remaining in the first half, but ULM running back Derrick Gore was stuffed on back-to-back runs and quarterback Garrett Smith was tackled for a 1-yard loss to force the Warhawks to settle for a 19-yard field goal.
USM held a 14-10 advantage at that point and made it 21-10 at the half on Griggs' 20-yard toss to Robertson with 1:51 left in the first half.
USM junior defensive end LaDarius Harris had two big tackles on USM's goal line stand.
"Goal line is something that we take real real serious," Harris said. "We practice that every week. We were prepared for tonight. We just told each other that we can't let them in the end zone."
ULM did manage 218 yards on 37 carries but USM held the Warhawks to just 112 yards on 11-of-27 passing.
USM would have likely had a larger margin of victory if not for committing 12 penalties for a total of 125 yards. ULM had five penalties for 54 yards.
"I call it a win and a win is a win," USM head coach Jay Hopson. "We can certainly play better. That's our journey. I knew this morning that we'd be in for a battle."
Senior safety Kelsey Douglas led USM with seven tackles.
D'Iberville native Jacques Turner, a redshirt freshman defensive end, finished with two tackles, including a sack.