Two weeks after suffering a non-conference setback against Louisiana-Monroe, the Southern Miss football team showed that there’s still plenty that can be accomplished in 2018.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Jack Abraham rebounded from an up-and-down performance in the 21-20 loss to ULM to complete 25 of 34 passes for 428 yards, four touchdowns one interception in a 40-22 win over Rice at Roberts Stadium.
Saturday’s game, which had a crowd of 20,159, marked the sixth time in program history that a USM quarterback has hit the 400-yard mark.
Abraham’s performance also contributed to a run of dominance by USM quarterbacks against the Rice defense.
USM (2-1, 1-0) has won the last four games against Rice and the Golden Eagles have produced 1,851 yards passing and 18 touchdown tosses during that stretch. Nick Mullens started the first two games of the winning streak and Kwadra Griggs got the start last year in Houston.
Abraham kept the ball rolling and started out hot with 199 yards passing after one quarter.
“We were taking what they were giving us,” Abraham said. “We were firing on all cylinders. It was exciting to see us at the best of our abilities. Things opened up and we were able to pass down field. Tonight was a good night for sure.”
Abraham didn’t have a perfect first half. He lost his footing on a rare snap under center, resulting in a lost yardage play. He was also intercepted at the 4:39 mark of the second quarter by Rice linebacker Blake Alldredge on a slightly under-thrown pass over the middle.
Otherwise, it was a good night for Abraham.
Southern Miss head coach Jay Hopson talked up this week the prospect of Griggs making a quick return to the field this week after having his indefinite suspension lifted on Sept. 14, but that proved to not be the case as the Greenwood native never played Saturday night.
Hopson was optimistic about Griggs’ chances of playing in Saturday’s 3 p.m. game at Auburn.
“You will see Kwadra next week,” Hopson said. “He’s coming back, getting in shape. Jack was playing well so we didn’t feel like there was a big need. If we had needed him, he would have played. We want to be fair to him. He’s still knocking the rust off, but he was looking good in practice.”
Jones gets involved
Biloxi product Tim Jones pulled in a 22-yard touchdown toss for the second scoring reception of his career in the fourth quarter.
Both of Jones’ touchdowns have come against Rice after pulling in a 51-yard pass from Griggs in Houston a year ago.
Jones, who had four catches for 65 yards on Saturday, has eight catches for 121 yards and one touchdown through three games.
The sophomore is part of a receiving corps that had plenty of players get involved Saturday night. USM had five players who had 62 yards receiving or more with De’Michael Harris leading the way with four catches for 99 yards.
Quez Watkins and Jaylond Adams both had scoring receptions.
Bring your shovel
The shovel pass has become a key piece of the Southern Miss offense this season with shifty receivers like Harris and Adams being the biggest beneficiaries.
Harris had a 74-yard play on a shovel pass in the first quarter and Jaylond Adams scampered 6 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter on another short pitch from from Abraham.
It was a shovel pass on the first play from scrimmage in the Louisiana-Monroe game that resulted in a 75-yard touchdown for Adams.
“We’ve got guys that can play,” Hopson said. “We’ve got guys that can play in space. It’s just one of our plays and guys make plays off of it.
Improved ground game
USM received much more efficient performances from its running backs Saturday night with 138 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries.
Redshirt freshman running back Steven Anderson led the way with eight carries for 52 yards and a score.
Another freshman, Trivenskey Mosley, received the most carries with nine rushes for 42 yards.
Redshirt senior Tez Parks had six carries for 31 yards.