Is Southern Miss back? Golden Eagles soar under national spotlight
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The Southern Miss Golden Eagles have won 3 straight games for the first time in the Will Hall era and the first time since 2019 on the gridiron.
Under the national spotlight in primetime action Thursday night, the Golden Eagles were not blinded. Instead, they soared.
This begs the question: Is Southern Miss football back?
“We’re not there yet, but man are we coming and [building this program] the right way,” Head Coach Will Hall said in the postgame press conference. ”I hope all of the Southern Miss faithful are fired up about where we’re headed and how we’re doing it. We want to be the best group of five program in America (again) but we’re not there yet.”
The Southern Miss offense began the highly anticipated Sun Belt rivalry matchup firing on all cylinders, with the “Nasty Bunch” defense taking it home for the Southern Miss program.
Despite throwing an interception on the first play of the game, freshman quarterback Zach Wilcke and the offense responded by scoring 20 first-quarter points.
Safety Malik Shorts created a Louisiana turnover and secured an interception that gave the Golden Eagles an outstanding starting position. Running back Janari Dean punched it home from the 1-yard line to give Southern Miss an early lead.
The Golden Eagle offense scored from big plays in their next two drives, with super back Frank Gore Jr., normally known for his running ability, tossed a beautiful deep ball to wide receiver Ty Mims for a 52-yard score and from Wilcke throwing a dart to wide receiver Jason Brownlee, who escaped four Cajuns’ defenders to create a 76-yard touchdown play.
The Cajuns’ scored their second points of the game with a 50-yard field goal to close out an entertaining first quarter, trailing 20-5.
The Nasty Bunch continued to wreak havoc for the Ragin Cajuns’ offense, sacking UL quarterback Ben Wooldridge in the end zone to score a safety. Midway through the second quarter, Wilcke threw a 12-yard dime to Brownlee to lead the Cajuns’ 29-11 at halftime.
The Southern Miss offense wasn’t nearly as explosive in the second half, relying on the defense to secure the rivalry victory. Gore Jr. fumbled the ball late inside the Golden Eagles’ own 20-yard line, which led to a UL score and the Golden Eagles leading 32-24.
The Golden Eagle faithful were getting anxious, hoping to come away with another statement win. However, like they’ve done all season, the Nasty Bunch stepped up when Southern Miss needed it most as cornerback Natrone Brooks took a pick-six 52 yards into the end zone to seal a 39-24 victory in The Rock.
“Phenomenal win for our program,” Coach Hall said. “I have an unbelievable amount of respect for the team we just beat. What a night for our program. To beat them is a big deal because they are a great football program, not just a great team.”
After starting the season with a 1-2 record, the Golden Eagles see themselves at 5-3 in year two under Coach Hall.
Southern Miss also has a 3-1 record in conference play and is currently in second place in the West division in their first year in the Sun Belt Conference. Coach Hall was asked if his young squad can challenge for the conference championship, to which he responded:
“I’m the biggest dreamer in America. I’m a 5′7″ dude who played quarterback [collegiately],” Coach Hall said. “I dream all day long. Really, we just take it one week at a time. We have to figure out a way to win each week because we’re not a complete program yet. We have seventy-one freshmen and sophomores. We’re growing and getting better, but we gotta continue to [keep growing]. We have another great opponent next week.”
Southern Miss will take on the Georgia State Panthers Saturday, November 5. Kick-off is set for 2 p.m. at M.M. Roberts Stadium.
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