USM Defensive performance was on top of its game

By ALAN HINTON,

The Southern Miss defense played so well last game that even the offensive coordinator bragged about it.

It resulted in a 37-2 Conference USA victory over University of Ala- bama at Birmingham (UAB).

“You want to get to a three-score lead and the Pick 6 (by DQ Thomas) got us to the three-score lead,” Golden Eagle offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner said. “Once you get to that, you realize our defense was just dominating the game.”

USM defensive coordinator Tim Billings didn’t mind talking about his group this week, either, for it has not given up a score in more than five quar- ters.

“It was one of the best defensive per- formances we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Billings said.

And Billings has been here four years, so that’s saying a lot.

The win over 6-3 UAB gave South- ern Miss a 6-3 overall record. It is 4-1

in Conference USA and in second place in C-USA’s West Division, one game behind Louisiana Tech.

It also made USM bowl eligible with six wins.

“It’s big!” said Southern Miss safety Shannon Showers, a sophomore from Fort White, Fla., who also intercepted a pass against UAB. “It’s my first time (to go to a bowl). I’m excited.”

Thing is, six wins qualifies a team for a bowl but doesn’t automatically put it in one. The Golden Eagles need only to think back to last year because that’s what happened.

In Conference USA, there are already six teams with six wins, and two more teams with five victories. C-USA has six guaranteed bowl spots, with three secondary agreements. A team with seven wins would be selected before a team with six wins.

That means the Eagles can’t coast to the finish line. There is still a possibility of a division title and of being assured of a bowl berth with a few more wins, starting with Saturday’s 5 p.m. game at UTSA (4-5, 3-2).

“They have good running backs (Sin-

cere McCormick and Brenden Brady), good receivers (Carlos Strickland II and Zachary Franklin) and their quarter- back (Lowell Narcisse) is a dual-threat guy,” Southern Miss head coach Jay Hopson said. “They are good up front. Here we go again, another good foot- ball team (this week). Same defensively – they’re very physical and fast and can fly around.”

The Golden Eagles will counter on offense with junior quarterback Jack Abraham (292.7-yard average passing) and running backs Kevin Perkins (49.3 average), De’Michael Harris (41.9 aver- age) and Steven Anderson (16.1 aver- age).

Top receivers are Jaylond Adams (38 receptions), Tim Jones (44 catches) and Quez Watkins (37 catches).

The game will be televised on ESPN+.

USM Players of the Week against UAB were Anderson on offense, Show- ers on defense and place-kicker Andrew Stein on special teams, who also gar- nered the Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week.