Jack Abraham didn’t fit in well as part of Skip Holtz’s program at Louisiana Tech and he decided it was best to find a more suitable destination after a year and a half in Ruston, La.
In his first shot at the Bulldogs as a member of the Southern Miss program, the Oxford native took full advantage.
Despite dealing with constant pressure from a talented Tech front seven, Abraham completed 24 of 29 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown in his first game back since suffering bone bruise to his right knee on Oct. 27 at Charlotte.
With Abraham providing a steady hand at quarterback, Southern Miss (5-5, 4-3) rallied to topple Louisiana Tech 21-20 Saturday, keeping the team’s bowl hopes alive headed into the regular season finale at UTEP.
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Abraham said that he tried to treat Saturday’s contest as just another game, but that wasn’t so easy for the redshirt sophomore.
“I was playing against guys I practiced against for a year and a half,” Abraham said. “We didn’t score in the third quarter, but there was something about the feel of the game that we kind of felt confident that we’d come out with a win.”
Abraham may have had a feeling that his team would come out on top, but the Eagles’ odds weren’t looking so hot with their quarterback being sacked four times and taking numerous hits.
With each collision, Abraham’s former Tech teammates had something to say.
“It wasn’t your usual trash talk,” Abraham said. “It was kind of poking back and forth. We had fun out there.”
Abraham’s biggest pass of the game may have come on USM’s final possession of the game when he rolled to his right on third-and-5 and found Biloxi product Tim Jones for a 12-yard completion and a first down.
“In a situation where we’ve got to have that completion, we felt pretty safe calling that play,” Abraham said. “I had a lot of trust in Tim to go out and make the catch and get open.”
USM managed to run the final 3:54 off the clock on the possession with redshirt freshman Stephen Anderson carrying six times for 17 yards to help grind out tough yardage.
It was Anderson’s 6-yard touchdown run with 6:02 remaining that gave the Golden Eagles the lead for good at 21-20.
USM again struggled to run the ball but the 6-foot-2, 242-pound Anderson’s 12 carries for 32 yards and two touchdowns proved crucial in the outcome.
“Stephen runs hard,” Hopson said “You’re seeing him turn into a really good running back. It takes a little time, but he’s getting better and better. He was a big part of that last drive that sealed the win for us.”
Louisiana Tech (7-4, 5-2) struggled on offense in the second half and managed just 3 points on a Bailey Hale field goal in the fourth quarter. Hale’s miss of a 29-yarder in the third quarter proved costly for the Bulldogs.
Louisiana Tech quarterback J’Mar Smith completed his first nine passes, but managed to hit just 18 of his final 34. He finished with 243 yards passing, a touchdown and no interceptions.
USM owns Tech
Hopson pushed his record at USM to 3-0 against Louisiana Tech and the Eagles have won four straight against the Bulldogs. He is also 3-0 against Marshall and Rice. He’ll hope to improve to 3-0 against UTEP next week.
UTEP was 1-9 entering Saturday night’s game at Western Kentucky.
The Eagles are by no means guaranteed a bowl game if they beat the Miners, but they at least keep the possibility alive.
“It feels great. We knew we had to win this game,” USM safety Ky’el Hemby said. “We have to take it one step at a time. We’re not taking anyone lightly.”
Freshman Tate Whatley technically received his third consecutive start at quarterback for USM when he took a direct snap for a run up the middle on the game’s first play. Abraham was lined up at receiver on the play and moved behind center for the vast majority of the contest.
Whatley received about 20 snaps during the course of the game and made an impact when he was in there. He ran seven times for 15 yards and completed the two passes he threw for 31 yards, including an important 28-yarder to Quez Watkins on the Eagles’ scoring drive in the fourth quarter.
The rotation of Abraham and Whatley at quarterback was seamless.
“I was all for it,” Abraham said. “He’s done a good job the past couple of weeks. “He can get some good QB runs and some nice throws. I’m proud of him and our team.”
Watkins led USM with nine catches for 110 yards, his fourth 100-yard game of the season.