HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) _ University of Southern Mississippi football coach Jay Hopson said both the offense and defense had good moments during the Golden Eagles’ first scrimmage of preseason workouts.
The defense just had more.
On steamy Saturday morning at M.M. Roberts Stadium, USM’s defense held the offense to 66 yards on 38 carries, recorded six sacks, recovered a fumble and returned four interceptions for touchdowns.
“I thought the defense played well (Saturday), but just looking at it from the field, I thought it was a pretty even day,” Hopson said later that afternoon during USM’s Football Media Day. “I thought the offense had a pretty good day, too.”
The two quarterbacks in the running for the starting slot, junior Jack Abraham and sophomore Tate Whatley, combined to complete 36-of-62 passes (58 percent) for 458 yards and four touchdowns.
“I’ve been pretty vocal about that since the spring that we’re going to give everybody the opportunity to win a job,” Hopson said. “Tate, when the lights have come on and he takes the field, has made plays, but I though Jack had a good day, too.
“We’re going to let them keep on battling.”
Whatley completed 17 of 26 passes for 219 yards and three scores, including a pair of 25-yard touchdown passes to junior Tim Jones and junior college transfer tight end Naricuss Driver, respectively, and a 12-yarder to junior Quez Watkins.
Abraham went 19-of-36 for 239 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jones.
USM’s leading rusher was Watkins, who gained 15 yards on his lone carry. Freshman Jordan Kempf and sophomore Darius Maberry each netted 13 yards. Freshman T.Q. Newsome scored on a 1-yard run.
Passing and rushing statistics in goal-line and two-minute drills were not included in the offensive numbers.
Seniors Jordan Mitchell (52 yards) and Neil McLaurin (49 yards) hauled in scrimmage-best four catches each.
Jones had 65 yards and two touchdowns on three receptions, while junior running back Kevin Perkins (62 yards), sophomore Jaylond Adams (42 yards), senior Trevor Terry (21 yards) and Kempf (21 yards) each had three catches.
Defensively, senior defensive back Ernest Gunn scored on interception returns of 100 yards and 36 yards, senior defensive back Taj Jones went 65 yards to score on an interception return and freshman safety Markel McLaurin added a 30-yard interception return.
Senior linebacker Darius Kennedy picked up a pair of sacks, while sophomore defensive lineman Tahj Sykes, senior defensive lineman Demarrio Smith, senior defensive back D.Q. Thomas and senior linebacker Nick Dawson each had a sack.
Junior linebacker Ty’ree Evans recovered a fumble.
Freshman signee Andrew Stein connected on 4-of-5 field goal attempts. Stein connected twice from 27 yards and added kicks from 36 yards and 49 yards. His lone miss came from 46 yards.
USM returns to the practice field Monday.