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Southern Miss’ second half rally falls short as Golden Eagles fall to Kentucky 24-17

Southern Miss couldn’t complete the home-and-home sweep of Kentucky.

NCAA Football: Savannah State at Southern Mississippi Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The Southern Miss Golden Eagles started year two of the Jay Hopson era at home against the Kentucky Wildcats. With the departure of Southern Miss great Nick Mullens at quarterback, today we got our first look at who will fill Mullens’ shoes.

With 1:37 left in the game trailing 24-17, Kwadra Griggs appears to be the guy moving forward. After being subbed in to start the second half due to an ineffective Keon Howard, Griggs put USM in position to tie the game but ended up coming short as the Golden Eagles were unable to move the ball with their backs to the goal line.

Keon Howard got the start today, but after an inconsistent first half in which the offense mustered three points with him as the quarterback, Jay Hopson switched to Griggs and the Greenwood, Mississippi, native delivered.

USM scored 14 points in the second half with Griggs as the quarterback as we began to see a more dynamic Golden Eagle offense with him as the signal caller. Griggs went 14-of-25 for 225 yards and two touchdowns. Korey Robertson was his favorite target as Robertson finished the game with seven catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns. Quez Watkins was also phenomenal as the freshman had four catches for 103 yards.

Unfortunately it wasn’t enough, as Southern Miss coughed up the ball three times with all of them being fumbles. Kentucky cashed in those turnovers for 14 points with a pivotal scoop and score towards the end of the third quarter after sacking Griggs.

Defensively USM played great as they held Kentucky to 257 yards of total offense and allowed just three points in the second half. Southern Miss gained 354 yards of total offense with a majority of the yardage coming in the second half.

If Griggs played the whole game, perhaps USM would have won. Although that’s sure to be a hot topic in Hattiesburg next week, Hopson must fix Southern Miss’ issue with turnovers as ball security was a problem last season too.

New players emerged tonight and that’s a great sign for USM going forward as I doubt C-USA defenses have the talent to contain Ito Smith and Allenzae Staggers as well as Kentucky did tonight.

Tonight’s performance showed that Southern Miss will be a tough team to deal with in Conference USA. It would have been great to bring home two straight wins over the SEC, but knowing how the rest of C-USA performed in Week 1, a close lost to an SEC team isn’t so bad.