Douglas makes history in Senior Day win for USM


HATTIESBURG – It hasn’t happened since 1967, but redshirt senior Kelsey Douglas did it Saturday afternoon against the Charlotte 49ers. Douglas returned two interceptions for touchdowns in a 66-21 win for the Golden Eagles, and the last time that happened for USM was Nov. 11, 1967, against Louisiana Tech.

Douglas returned interceptions from 52 and 48 yards, which helped build the Southern Miss lead to 27-0 before the 49ers could get on the board.

What made it even more special for Douglas was it came on Senior Day.

“He finished it right at the Rock,” Southern Miss coach Jay Hopson said. “What better script could you have for a defensive back to run two interceptions back for touchdowns. Those were two huge plays that kind of got us going, and two big impact plays.”

“I was just trying to end in my last game in the Rock on a good note with a bang,” Douglas said. “It’s been a fun five years. That definitely was a great way to play my last game in the Rock.”

The first interception return came midway through the first quarter when Southern Miss had a slim 3-0 lead. USM senior defensive back Tarvarius Moore tipped a pass from Charlotte’s Hasaan Klugh, and the ball fell right down into Douglas’ hands.

Douglas was escorted down the field with a host of Southern Miss defenders, pushing the lead to 10-0.

“The first one, I kind of caught and I was like, ‘Ok, I’m going to follow the convoy.’ Those guys kind of led the way,” Douglas said.

Southern Miss kicker Parker Shaunfield added his second field goal of the game from 30 yards – his first came from 23 – to give USM a 13-0 lead, then senior Ito Smith scored from the 1 to make it 20-0.

On the ensuing 49ers drive, Klugh’s pass fluttered out of his hands as he was hit, and Douglas caught it with no one 49er around him. He scored easily from the 48-yard line.

“The second one, I caught and saw nothing but green grass,” Douglas said. “I kind of new on the second one.”

Charlotte finally found pay dirt almost immediately after Douglas’ return, as it returned a kickoff into Southern Miss territory and scored in 38 seconds after the USM score. Smith added his second touchdown of the game a couple of minutes later, rushing it in from the 3, and that moved Smith into second in school history with 40 career rushing touchdowns.

Smith capped off the night with his 41st career touchdown, an 80-yard rushing score midway through the third to give the Eagles a commanding 52-7 lead. He sprinted up the left sideline, out-racing a Charlotte defender.

“He showed an extra gear on that one down the sideline,” Hopson said. “I said, ‘It looked like you went into supercharge,’ right there when that guy was about to get him.”

Smith finished the night with a game-high 153 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries, and redshirt junior Tez Parks added 91 rushing yards and a touchdown – his first of his career. Junior T-Rod Daniels recorded 70 rushing yards, which was highlighted by a 53-yard score, on four carries, as the team totaled 363 yards on the ground on 42 attempts.

Redshirt junior Kwadra Griggs passed for 221 yards on 20-of-27 attempts with a score, and he also added 51 rushing yards on 10 attempts. Griggs’ highlight of the night came at the beginning of the third quarter when he connected with Korey Robertson for a 45-yard touchdown pass to give USM a 45-7.

“The guys always have my back,” Griggs said. “If I make a mistake, they have my back. I try to have their back and we try to come together to move the offense together.”

Leading 38-7 at halftime, the end result was never in question. Saturday was the most points scored in a game for Southern Miss since 2008, which was a 70-point effort against UAB.

Southern Miss (7-4) will now travel to Marshall (7-3) next week for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.