Nobody is more determined to keep the Southern Miss football team’s winning streak rolling against Louisiana Tech this Saturday than redshirt junior quarterback Jack Abraham.
USM has had Louisiana Tech’s number ever since the Golden Eagles traveled to Ruston in 2015 and rolled the Bulldogs 58-24 to win the Conference USA West title. Much like Nick Mullens did in the regular season finale in 2016, Abraham returned from injury in 2018 to help lead the Golden Eagles to a 21-20 win over La. Tech — the fourth consecutive victory in the series.
That win meant a little more to Abraham than it did for the rest of his teammates.
Abraham, a redshirt junior, originally committed to Tulane ahead of his senior year at Oxford High School, but his offer was pulled late after Willie Fritz was hired to take over the Green Wave program. Abraham signed with Louisiana Tech and spent 18 months there, but it became increasingly clear that the program was not a good fit for him.
Abraham transferred to Northwest Mississippi Community College for the 2017 season. He threw for 2,949 yards and 23 touchdowns and landed a scholarship offer from USM head coach Jay Hopson, who has long held a close relationship with the quarterback and his father.
La. Tech head coach Skip Holtz spoke this week about what it was like to lose Abraham.
“We knew Jack was a great player, watching him develop throughout high school,” Holtz said. “We recruited him, he was here, wanted to play, and he opted to find another school — which I hated because it was never the case that he wasn’t wanted here. We thought he was going to be a special player, and he is. He’s continuing to mature as a quarterback. He’s always been smart, very accurate and a quick release. All that is really showing now that he’s got a couple years of college football under his belt.”
Fifteen starts into his career at USM, it appears that Abraham landed exactly where he was supposed to.
Abraham is in his second season as the Southern Miss starting quarterback and he’s drawing closer to clearing his 2018 passing yardage — 2,347. He has completed 71.7 percent of his passes for 1,936 yards, 12 touchdowns and four interceptions.
At 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Abraham travels to Louisiana Tech to take on his old team in an NFL Network-televised game.
Even though he’s already got one game under his belt against the Bulldogs, he admits that there will be some extra motivation when he steps on the turf at Joe Aillet Stadium.
“I try to treat it like (it’s any other game),” Abraham said. “It’s not, but at the same time I treat it like that. It’s just another football game like we’ve been playing the past six weeks. I’ve got to go out there and play the game. I’m not worried about the outside noise.”
Abraham says he has received some friendly text messages from his former La. Tech teammates in the lead up to the game.
“Some of my good friends will be my worst enemies on Saturday,” he said.
Southern Miss (4-2, 2-0) leads the all-time record the “Rivalry in Dixie” with a mark of 35-15.
There are only two other Southern Miss football series longer than the one with La. Tech – Memphis (63 games) and Louisiana-Lafayette (52 games).
The Golden Eagles have won four straight in the series and 11 of the last 14. USM is 16-8 in games in Ruston. USM-La. Tech games have been decided by seven or fewer points 20 times.
Southern Miss returned redshirt junior linebacker Racheem Boothe and freshman guard Coker Wright from injury a week ago, but there were two season-opening starters absent last week with unspecified injuries against North Texas.
Redshirt senior receiver Jordan Mitchell and sophomore running back Trivenskey Mosley both sat out the 45-27 victory and it’s unclear when they may return to the field.
Mosley has been out since the first half of the season opener with an unspecified injury. Mitchell, who has 22 catches for 369 yards and three touchdowns, left the second half of the Sept. 18 game against UTEP.
Senior receiver Trevor Terry, a Long Beach product, saw more playing time in Mitchell’s absence and made three catches for 28 yards.
La. Tech QB
Much like North Texas quarterback Mason Fine last week, USM defensive coordinator Tim Billings has a healthy respect for La. Tech senior quarterback J’Mar Smith.
Smith has seen a significant leap in his completion percentage, going from 57.3 to 63.8, and Billings has noticed that the 6-foot-1, 218-pound quarterback has shown improvement.
“He’s got another year of knowledge. He knows his receivers,” Billings said. “He does a better job of reading defensive schemes and that’s a big reason why they are 5-1. They played Texas like we played Alabama. He’s the leader of the football team. He’s another Mason Fine. One thing he does better than Fine is he runs the ball a little more. He’s stronger, more physical. He can run. It’s another big challenge for us this week.”
Smith has thrown for 1,557 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions.