Southern Miss entered this game with a struggling rushing offense — a worrying match up against UTSA’s strong defensive front. With senior starting running back Tez Parks out with an injury, expectations were low for the Golden Eagles on the ground. Despite the disadvantageous situation, freshmen running backs Trivensky Mosley and Steven Anderson enjoyed huge days, rushing for a combined 193 yards as the Golden Eagles would settle their season record at 3-3.
UTSA would also feature some personnel changes as true freshman Jordan “Jojo” Weeks made his first career start for the Roadrunners. Weeks’ slow start (10 plays for 7 yards) paved the way for Southern Miss to exit the first quarter with a 6-0 lead as Parker Shaunfield chipped in two short field goals.
With the offense stalling, UTSA threw the USM defense for a loop with a wildcat formation. Wide receiver Matt Guidry tucked the ball on a keeper and ran 43 yards to the Southern Miss four yard line. Things would get strange there as UTSA pulled Weeks from the game in favor of Cordale Grundy who failed to get the team into the end zone. Down by six points, UTSA elected to kick a field goal with the ball spotted at the one yard line on fourth down. The 18 yard attempt would cut the USM lead to three points.
Following UTSA’s strange decision to kick from the goal line, Southern Miss would return the ensuing kickoff 79 yards to the UTSA 21 yard line. The excellent field position set up a quick touchdown for the Golden Eagles as they would take control of the game from that point on.
Southern Miss would force another three and out after Steven Anderson’s touchdown run, setting up one last score before the half. USM quarterback Jack Abraham would pass nine times on a 13 play, 75 yard drive that bled the remaining six minutes off the clock. Abraham would find Jordan Mitchell wide open in the end zone to build the Golden Eagles’ lead to 20-3 at halftime.
The Roadrunners’ woes would continue at the start of the third quarter as Jack Abraham would start the second half with throws for 33 and 24 yards, setting up another quick score as Abraham would call his own number on a QB sneak to bring the lead to 27-3.
Facing a 24 point deficit, UTSA finally began to show some life. After another three and out from the UTSA offense, Roadrunner linebacker Les Mauro picked up a Jay’Shawn Washington fumble — a much needed momentum change for Frank Wilson’s struggling program.
Weeks would finally hit his groove following the turnover as he welcomed a fellow true freshman into the backfield in Brenden Brady. Weeks would hit Greg Campbell for 27 yards before Brady carried the ball twice for gains of 17 and 7 to bring the Roadrunners into the red zone. Weeks would then hit Greg Campbell for a two yard touchdown pass, cutting the lead to 27-10. Not saying much, but it was UTSA’s best offensive drive in months.
UTSA’s defense would force another turnover on the following drive as CJ Levine would swipe the ball out of the hands of Jordan Mitchell, leading to a fumble recovery by Andrew Martel. The Roadrunners were unable to put the turnover to use, as the two teams would exchange punts to end the third quarter.
The fourth quarter would start with a bang as CJ Levine picked off a pass from Abraham for an eight yard pick six on the first play of the quarter, Abraham’s seventh interception on the season. Levine’s touchdown would put a rest to the day’s scoring as Southern Miss would hold on to a 27-17 victory.
Did we mention the Nasty Bunch has been tonight⁉️ pic.twitter.com/0WtdNjAgOb— Southern Miss FB (@SouthernMissFB) October 21, 2018
USM’s defense continues to impress this season, as they held UTSA to just nine first downs in the contest. The Roadrunners mustered just 174 yards of offense on the day, while punter Yanni Roustas booted it nine times for a total of 426 yards.
Jojo Weeks certainly had his freshman moments but the young quarterback also showed a lot of promise by flashing his arm strength and ability to step up in the pocket. Weeks took more shots down field than his predecessors, often missing open receivers on overthrown balls. If Weeks can calm his nerves then he should be a promising piece moving forward for the Roadrunners.
Meanwhile, Tez Parks may be in for a decrease in snaps once he returns from injury. The senior is averaging just 2.7 yards per carry. Freshmen running backs Trivenskey Mosley and Steven Anderson just look much more explosive and comfortable in the offense and should receive the lion’s share of carries moving forward. The Golden Eagles have a really nice 1-2 punch to utilize over the next three seasons.
The Roadrunners will take the loss back to San Antonio where they’ll work on their failing offense through a much needed bye week. USM will travel to Charlotte next week in the hopes of improving on their .500 record.