HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WLBT) - The idea of making a statement is probably one of the most overused tropes in all of sports. No matter the opponent, the narrative always can be twisted enough to where any win at any time can be a “statement.”
Look no further than Clemson right now labeling its dominant win over a mediocre Florida State team.
So what I’m about to say next blows right into the face of everything that was said above:
Southern Miss just made a statement.
Nevermind that the Golden Eagles had not beaten North Texas 2015 or that heading into this most recent matchup, there was a healthy debate on whether Jack Abraham or Mason Fine was the best quarterback in Conference-USA. All of that was secondary to what was at stake on a beautiful brisk Saturday evening at M.M. Roberts Stadium i.e. prime positioning in the west division race.
And after a hectic back-and-forth affair in the first half, USM grabbed ahold of the game in its final 30 minutes and actually made it a bit of a laugher in the end, toppling North Texas 45-27 to remain undefeated in conference play.
“Our confidence is at a all-time high right now,” said Abraham who, for a second straight game, tossed three touchdown passes. “I really thought we had a complete game (against North Texas).
“We know how good we are and how explosive we can be.”
Abraham’s season is basically Southern Miss’ in a microcosm. After all, there was no guarantee that he would be the starter coming into the season, yet now he has asserted himself as the class of the quarterback position in CUSA. Meanwhile, nobody really knew what to make of the Golden Eagles in the preseason and now, you’d be hard pressed to find a better pick for conference champion.
And as we hit the midpoint of the 2019 campaign, USM hits the latter stretch having just put together its most complete performance in a game that, to date, had the highest stakes. The running game suffering a setback early on with an injury to Trivenskey Mosley, it’s been a committee in the time since, but Saturday saw De’Michael Harris’ turn and, after making the move from receiver, the former high school track star torched the North Texas defense for 7.4 yards-per-carry en route to becoming the Eagles’ first 100-yard rusher this year.
Mosley joining Quez Watkins, Jaylond Adams among others in the fraternity of playmakers that Abraham has at his disposal.
“It’s really exciting,” said Watkins of the make-up of the offense. “With this group of boys, you never know, it can happen with one play and blow the roof off.”
Consider the roof effectively blown off at this point as the well-oiled machine that is this offense continue to pace this Southern Miss squad that has only experienced setbacks against SEC schools. A team once slept on now has the full attention of everyone in the conference, and that includes next week’s opponent, Louisiana Tech - the only other team in the west that has yet to lose in conference.
Again, “making a statement” is often overused, but with this most recent win in the books, Southern Miss has a rare opportunity now do it again on the road.
Cross that barrier, then all of the sudden, it’s time to start having a real conversation about a conference championship.