After last season’s Armed Forces Bowl, Southern Miss fans were hoping to see a different result when Tulane came to town on Saturday. This game, after all, was an unplanned contest that had given the Golden Eagles the perfect opportunity to reclaim the prized trophy that has traded hands between the schools in their storied rivalry: a large bell.
The rightfully named “Battle for the Bell” between Tulane and USM was not supposed to see its next installation until 2022 but the Covid-19 pandemic bumped that up by a few years. Golden Eagles fans, however, will have to wait until then (at least) to reclaim their beloved bell.
The Wave made it abundantly clear that their bowl victory over Southern Miss was no fluke. After falling behind 14-7 after the first quarter, the Greenies outscored the Golden Eagles 59-10 to end up on the right side of a 42-point shellacking.
Things looked as though they wouldn’t go Tulane’s way early on, though, as Kevin Perkins’ 2-yard scoring run was followed up by a 58-yard touchdown from Jack Abraham to Jason Brownlee. Not even five minutes into the game Southern Miss led 14-0.
Tyjae Spears and the Green Wave offense quickly responded. Spears scampered in twice to knot things up at 14. Another Abraham touchdown was answered when freshman quarterback Michael Pratt (who was made his first appearance coming off the bench for the Wave) found Cameron Carroll for another score.
From there Tulane rolled. Carroll went on to score two more touchdowns for the Green Wave rushing attack that put up an outstanding 430 yards on the ground and seven...yes SEVEN... touchdowns. When all was said and done, the Greenies walked away with 66 points on the board and a crushingly dominant win over their longtime rivals.
The Good: What a bounce back for the Wave who lost last week’s contest against Navy in a devastatingly gut-wrenching way. It’s hard to come back from blowing a 24-0 lead in the second half but compiling almost 600 yards of total offense and hanging a 60-burger on your next opponent (and a team you don’t really like) is just what the doctor ordered. The offense looked sharper than ever under Pratt who stepped in to replace Keon Howard. They averaged eight yards per rush, Pratt threw 142 yards and two scores and five different players notched touchdowns. All in all you couldn’t have asked for much more as a Wave fan.
It’s hard to find something for Southern Miss here but Abraham did look solid throwing the ball for the Golden Eagles. He nearly eclipsed 300 yards through the air and had two long-strike touchdowns. Yes he tossed one interception but Saturday’s troubles cannot be pinned on the senior QB. The main issues lie elsewhere.
The Bad: Tulane lost running back Tyjae Spears to a potentially serious knee injury in the second quarter. The freshman was really starting to come into his own this season with 37 carries and 274 yards before going down. This could come as a significant blow to a ground game that’s already without star senior Corey Dauphine who tore his ACL earlier this month. Spears may not have missed greatly in this game but down the road he very well could be.
Simply put, it’s shaping up to be a long season in Hattiesburg for Southern Miss and their fans. 6-of-17 on third downs, not even 100 rush yards and two turnovers all while winning the time of possession battle paired with an abysmal defensive performance made for one of the worse losses in quite sometime. Now 0-3, the Golden Eagles don’t seem to have much to look forward to as the meat of their C-USA schedule looms.
The Ugly: The Keon Howard experiment may be running out of steam in New Orleans. After looking mediocre in his first two games, Howard got a short leash in this one and finished with just one completion on three pass attempts and no yards. Has Willie Fritz and company pulled the plug on Howard for good? Seeing how well Pratt played in relief, we wouldn’t be shocked. Ugly for Tulane as a team? No. Ugly for the senior looking to finish his career on a high note? Much more so.
For USM it’s pretty much everything. The Golden Eagles are reeling and 2020 is rapidly turning into a forgettable season. An opening-night upset loss followed by an abrupt resignation by head coach Jay Hopson and now a thrashing at the hands of an old foe? Things aren’t looking up right now.
Up Next: The Green Wave (2-1) will have some extended time to prepare for a big game in Houston on October 8 against the Cougars under the bright lights of ESPN. (For anyone who needs a refresher on how that went last time, click here).
Southern Miss (0-3) will head to North Texas nest Saturday to take on the Mean Green.