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Southern Mississippi handles Savannah State 56-0

The Golden Eagles scored early and led 49-0 before letting up on the gas.

NCAA Football: Savannah State at Southern Mississippi
Coach Jay Hopson leaves the field with a 49-0 halftime lead over Savannah State.
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Southern Miss coach Jay Hopson understood.

As he watched his Southern Mississippi team run up a 49-0 lead over Savannah State and halftime still yet to come, he remembered four years before being in a situation similar to that of Erik Raeburn, the new head coach in Savannah.

"When I inherited the Alcorn State team, it was in July. We started practice on Aug. 4 and had our first game Sept. 1."

That is very much how Savannah State began it’s season because the small school was barred by the NCAA from having spring practices for substandard APR scores. Like Hopson before, coach Raeburn had barely one month to work with his players before opening the season.

It was little surprise that Southern Miss held a 21-0 first quarter lead and dominated total yardage by an X-box-like margin of 615-64.

With a 49-0 halftime advantage, Hopson proved again the class for which he is known as he began pulling starters in the third quarter.

Golden Eagle seemed to remember the 2012 game when Southern Miss finished 0-12 and how some opponents have no mercy.

Yet even playing essentially half of a game and getting only eight carries, star running back Ito Smith rushed for 128 yards. Smith had entered the game as the nation’s sixth-ranked ball carrier after posting 173 yards against Kentucky last week.

Second running back George Paine also hit the mark as he accounted for 116 yards on 14 carries.

Nick Mullens had enough time to hit 16/20 passing with 216 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Mullens also ran for a touchdown.

The USM defense was dominant as it held Savannah’s running attack to just four yards on 29 attempts. As for pass defense the Golden Eagles suffocated Savannah State holding four Tiger quarterbacks to 8/26 for 60 yards and an X-box-like 64 total yards.

Despite not coming close to matching Southern Mississippi in those gaudy statistics, Savannah State did win one important category. The Tigers had no turnovers while the Southern Miss had one.

Savannah State is a valiant bunch. The Tigers are one of the few FCS teams brave enough to annually schedule two FBS opponents and while this year's effort resulted in a combined 0 - 110 score (0-54 to Georgia Southern), the Tigers will not change their two-FBS ways any time soon, because of the revenue the games bring to a program that is determined to compete.

Next week, Southern Mississippi will be at home with Troy coming to town. Troy challenged second-ranked Clemson today before losing 30-24.

Savannah State won't play again until September 24th when the Tigers host Bethune-Cookman University. Although Bethune-Cookman lost to FBS North Texas today, the Wildcats are considered one of the better FCS teams.