USM returns home for Senior Day

By ALAN HINTON,

Fans get a last chance to watch the Southern Miss Golden Eagles at home this season on Saturday afternoon, when the Charlotte 49ers invade M.M. Roberts Stadium at 2 p.m.

It will be Senior Day for 23 players, most of whom have started at least once in their USM careers.

Southern Miss coach Jay Hopson praised his seniors and hopes the fans appreciate them, too.

“Hopefully, we have a big crowd to send these seniors out,” Hopson said. “They're a bunch of young men that have done a lot of tremendous things for Southern Miss and the football program.

“I would love to have a great Eagle Walk (at noon) and when we make that turn around the corner to see a big crowd underneath M.M. Roberts supporting these guys because they've done a great job here. We just want to show our appreciation for everything they've done.”

The Eagles, already bowl eligible with six wins, are 6-4 overall and 4-2 in Conference USA. Conference USA has six bowl tie-ins, and already there are six C-USA teams that have at least six wins and four others that have a shot at six wins or more.

Hopson said becoming bowl eligible was important but refused to obsess about the bowl future.

“I don’t worry about that stuff,” he said. “I worry about Charlotte.

“Play well and it takes care of itself. No need to even worry about it. Just go play football and that’s our journey. Get ready for Charlotte and that’s all that matters. That’s ‘coach talk' but it’s true talk. That’s the reality, get ready for Charlotte.”

Last week, USM played Rice, a team that had lost eight straight games, and barely won.

This week, Charlotte is similar, sporting a 1-9 overall record, 1-5 in Conference USA. But that one win was over UAB. And UAB whipped USM 30-12 three games ago.

“We know what type of football team that is coming to town,” Hopson said.

Quarterback Hasaan Klugh leads the 49ers. He has been involved in 15 of the team’s 18 touchdowns this season, running for seven and passing for eight.

Klugh, Benny LeMay and Aaron McAllister each have at least one 100-yard rushing game to their credit.

Defensively, Karrington King, Ben DeLuca and Jeff Gemmell are leading tacklers. The Charlotte defense has held three C-USA opponents to 17 points or less in regulation play.

“They ran the ball very well on us last year and will try to do the same things as last year,” Southern Miss defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro said.

Rice ran the ball well on USM last week, too. Linebacker Racheem Boothe had 14 tackles and was named the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week but he didn’t get much help.

“Defensively, we started hot but after midway through the second quarter, it was probably our worst two quarters of the season,” Hopson said. “We didn't tackle as well as I would like in the second half. We let them stick around on third downs, kept them on the field and kept drives alive. It's something we'll correct and look at and get better.”

But last week, with the return of quarterback Kwadra Griggs after a hand injury, the Golden Eagle offense looked sharp in the 43-34 win over Rice. Griggs completed 22-of-31 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns, and did not throw an interception.

Korey Robertson caught eight passes for 159 yards and is having an excellent season with 59 receptions for 861 yards and nine touchdowns.

Running back Ito Smith continues to play well. He rushed for 150 yards on 24 carries against Rice and has 1,018 yards this season, the third time he has surpassed the 1,000-yard mark.