Saturday’s 47-42 win over Troy was one of those games when the Southern Miss offense seemed as if it could do no wrong, and nobody knew that better than redshirt junior quarterback Jack Abraham.
“I remember one instance when we’re blocking and I hear Jack behind me and he was like, ‘Man, we are rolling,’” USM sophomore center Trace Clopton said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, you just keep throwing it.’”
Abraham completed his first 17 passes of the game and finished 28-of-36 for 463 yards and two touchdowns.
The Oxford product has always been known for his accuracy, but USM coaches are hoping Saturday’s performance is a sign that Abraham has taken his game to another level headed into Saturday’s 11 a.m. game at college football juggernaut Alabama.
“No. 1, he’s done a great job all year of getting us in the right protections,” USM offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner said. “It really helps when you’ve got the release he has. He’s got one of the quickest releases I’ve ever been around. Even when there is a little bit of pressure, he’s still able to get the ball off where a guy with a little bit longer delivery may not be able to make those throws. He made the right reads. Honestly, (his performance) was as good as I’ve ever been around and I’m proud of him for that. We’ve just got to continue to build off of it.”
After leading the nation in completion percentage at 73.1 in 2018, Abraham is hitting his receivers at a 71.1 clip through three games. His 990 yards rank seventh in the nation, one spot behind Alabama lefty Tua Tagovailoa, who has thrown for 1,007 yards, 12 touchdowns and no interceptions. Abraham has five touchdowns three interceptions.
In his second season as the USM starter, Abraham appears much more at ease with an improved grasp of the offense and a better offensive line.
“I think he’s maturing. He’s running the offense better,” USM head coach Jay Hopson said. “With a guy like Jack, you see him getting better and better. I said a long time ago he reminds me of (former USM quarterback) Nick Mullens, just a little younger. Jack eats and sleeps football. Hopefully he’ll continue on with his progression and get better.”
Saturday’s game will be shown on ESPN2.
Redshirt sophomore receiver Jaylond Adams was named Conference USA’s Special Teams Player of the Week and redshirt junior receiver Quez Watkins was named the C-USA Offensive Player of the Week for their play against Troy.
Helped by a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, Adams had 322 all-purpose yards – the second most in USM history behind 335 from Sam Dejarnette. Adams also caught 11 passes for 180 yards.
During his Monday press conference, Alabama coach Nick Saban praised the USM special teams unit for its play on kick and punt returns.
“This is one of the most explosive teams we’ve played on special teams,” Saban said. “(Adams) has a punt return for a touchdown, two kickoff returns for touchdowns this season. They’re ranked nationally in all areas. This is not a time for us to be thinking that we don’t have to prepare well and work to focus on the things we need to do to play well in our preparation for this game. We need to go to work on that.”
Watkins caught seven passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns against Troy, giving USM the nation’s top two receiving yardage performances last week.
New middle linebacker?
USM head coach Jay Hopson named redshirt freshman linebacker Hayes Maples the team’s Defensive Player of the Week for Saturday’s game at Troy.
The 6-foot-2, 235-pound Maples had three tackles against the Trojans and may see more playing time due to an injury to redshirt junior Racheem Boothe, who left Saturday’s game in the second quarter. Boothe stood on the sideline with his left foot in a boot at the end of the game.
Hopson has declined to address injuries this season, but he said Monday that “Racheem is a guy we plan on playing.”
If Maples is on the field more starting Saturday, that’s fine by USM defensive coordinator Tim Billings.
“He’s smart and he’s tough and he’s athletic,” he said. “He’s just a no-nonsense guy. He just goes to work and he just absorbs everything you tell him. He just has a passion for the game. He’s the type of young man that wants to be the best at everything he does. Every play he’s out there he’s just getting better. He’s learning more about the game and getting a better feel. We’re excited about him.”