As the kids say, it's all good. Saturday that sentiment pretty well summed up an evening at the Rock, as 29,509 black and gold clad fans showed up to watch the home team play against a team in Savannah state that has only won 22 games in roughly twenty years. Obviously it was all about the Golden Eagles, and that is how it should be. Nick Mullens was his usual efficient self going 16-20 passing for 216 yards 3 touchdowns to three different receivers. Mullens also added a two yard touchdown on the ground on a well executed keeper.
Ito Smith was in top form rushing for 128 yards on only 8 carries for a lofty 16 yard per carry average. Smith had the run of the night as he spun out of tackle, reversed field and raced 86 yards for a touchdown that broke a 35 year old stadium record that was previously owned by the perfect 10, Reggie Collier, who went 82 yards to pay dirt back in 1981. Obviously it was a tremendous effort on Ito's part, but none of it would have been possible without the stellar blocking down field by wide receiver Isiah Jones, who took out two Savannah State players to spring Smith on his record breaking run. For the second week, the receivers were very good blocking on the perimeter in the run game. Particularly D.J. Thompson and Isaiah Jones.
George Payne continued to shine as the change of pace back rolling up 116 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown averaging 8.3 yards per carry. Tez Parks got his first action of the young season adding 72 yards on 13 carries coming back from a knee injury he suffered a mere nine months ago. Tez showed some physicality and impressive burst. Tez will only continue to get better as he gets more carries and his confidence grows.
Saturday the Southern Miss receivers were again impressive. Catching every ball that came their way. Isaiah Jones accounted for 82 yards receiving, with 65 of that total coming on a spectacular catch and run that showed what a weapon his speed can and will be this season. It was a bit of a welcome back party for redshirt junior Marquise Ricard after missing last season with an ankle injury. Ricard led all receivers with six grabs for 50 yards and his first touchdown of the season. Sophomore receiver Korey Robertson was very efficient with one reception for a 22 yard touchdown. Speaking of welcome back, it was nice to see Tman Holmes showing what he can bring to this offense as slipped down the seam for a 24 yard reception that set the Eagles up deep in the red zone. The 2016 version of the Southern Miss receiver corps appears to be not only deep, but talented.
Obviously the offensive line was dominant, and they should have been considering the opponent. With that said, it would not have been difficult for the big guys to come out flat. To their credit, as well as the entire team, they came out in business like fashion and totally dominated the line of scrimmage from start to finish rolling up over 600 yards of offense. Believe me it could have been much uglier had Hopson not taken his foot off the gas at half time. It was impressive to see the fella's take care of their business. For the second strait week the staff had the team ready to handle business. Both Drake Dorbeck and Tyler stutzman got to play the majority of the second half at guard and center respectively. Granted the competition was not stout, but those two guys got valuable reps and did so in impressive fashion. Stutzman opened nice holes in the middle and I do not remember him having one bad snap. More importantly I think it was the first time in three seasons that Cameron Tom actually got to take an extended breather.
Saturday the Southern Miss defense was intimidating and absolutely dominant setting a CUSA record for defensive yards allowed holding savannah State to a paltry 41 yards of total offense. From the starters to the third teamers the defense controlled the line pf scrimmage accounting for five sacks and 11 tackles for loss. During their brief play Dylan Bradley, Paw Thigpen, and JaBoree Poole spent most of the evening in the opposing teams backfield. I was very pleased with Derrick Dixon as he was impressive in his first action as a Golden Eagle. Dixon showed the ability to play inside and out recording five tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss. His play could be big down the road adding quality depth to the defensive line. True freshman defensive tackle Demario Smith made his Nasty Bunch debut in fine form recording his first sack and another tackle foe loss. I was also pleased with the solid play of Jeremy Sangster at the middle linebacking spot. Sangster was solid in coverage and played well down hill in the run game recording five tackles in limited playing time. Paxton Schrimsher got his first playing time as an Eagle, but it came at a position that is very new to him. Due to Wolf end Allen Fails being sidelined with an ankle injury the staff put Schrimsher's hand in the turf and let him rush the quarterback from the Wolf end position. Paxton looked the part and has the size and speed to be a factor at that position in the future.
I would be remiss not to mention the beautiful 75 yard punt return for touchdown turned in by Allanzae Staggers. He used his big time speed and nice vision to weave his way through the Savannah State coverage to pay dirt. There were some very nice blocks turned in on that electric return. Very nice effort by the entire punt return team.
Not really much to speak of, and I certainly will not complain about that. I will mention that Mullen's threw his fourth interception of the young season. At this point I am not concerned. I just needed something less than good to fill this empty space. On amore serious note I counted three missed opportunities to pull in interceptions by our secondary. Two of them would have most likely gone for touchdowns. The missed opportunities were of no consequence Saturday, but could prove huge down the road. I know this is picky, but for the life of me I can not make heads or tails of the numbers on our jerseys. Maybe I am getting old and blind.
Poor old Savannah State was probably the worst football team these eyes have seen play a game at the Rock in 35 years of watching Southern Miss football. I honestly felt bad for them on occasion. That is it folks. I guarantee you our Eagles have a stern test coming next Saturday against Troy. It will be a very physical contest. I am already getting amped to see what should be a war.