Four forced turnovers by the Southern Miss (4-4, 3-2 C-USA) defense were key for the team’s 26-24 win over the Marshall Thundering Herd on Saturday afternoon. Along with the four turnovers, the Southern Miss defense held Marshall to 249 yards of total offense and allowed just 31 yards on the ground.
Freshman quarterback Tate Whatley made his first start of his career for the Golden Eagles’ in place of an injured Jack Abraham. Whatley completed 16-of-25 passes for the 134 yards and a passing touchdown along with 40 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
“What a competitor, [the] young man fought, scratched, clawed,” Hopson said. “He’s a true Southern Miss guy. You saw him get hit a few times, dig and fight and claw for another yard. For a freshman in his first start, to come out and beat Marshall in his first start, I thought that spoke volumes.”
Whatley and the offense moved the ball 39-yards in 12 plays during the opening drive of the contest, which culminated in a 45-yard field goal by redshirt senior kicker Parker Shaunfield. However, the Golden Eagles only gained 47 yards of total offense in the first half, and Marshall scored on a 24-yard field goal at the end of the first quarter to tie the game 3-3.
After multiple punts from both teams, Marshall added its first touchdown at the 5:04 mark in the second quarter when Southern Miss sophomore punter Zac Everett fumbled the punt attempt, which led to a 13-yard scoop and score for Marshall and a 10-3 lead for the Thundering Herd.
A Whatley fumble later in the quarter set up Marshall with good field position in Southern Miss territory. However, Ty Williams’ interception two plays later set up a five-play, 46-yard drive that ended with a four-yard touchdown pass from Whatley to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Quez Watkins to tie the game up at 10-10.
On the next offensive drive, redshirt sophomore defensive end Jacques Turner forced a fumble on Marshall quarterback Isaiah Green, which was recovered by Darian Yancey for a 17-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown. The touchdown allowed the Golden Eagles to take a 17-10 halftime lead.
“I was rushing, and I saw Jacques [Turner] pretty much get the ball out,” Yancey said. “Once I saw the ball out I just knew I had to get it. It was just a scoop and score drill just like any day in practice, so I just kind of scooped it up and just took off with it.”
Marshall tied things back up on its second drive of the third quarter, driving 66 yards in four plays on a drive that resulted in a two-yard run for a score, tying the game again at 17-17. On Marshall’s next offensive drive, Green was intercepted by junior defensive back Ky’El Hemby, which gave the Golden Eagles good field position and eventually led to a Shaunfield field goal to give Southern Miss a 20-17 lead.
Southern Miss never trailed the rest of the way. Whatley scored on a one-yard quarterback keeper with 7:13 left to play in the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 26-17, which was followed by another Marshall fumble at the Southern Miss four-yard line in the red zone.
Marshall scored a touchdown with 1:11 remaining in the game to close the gap to 26-24, but Southern Miss recovered the subsequent onside kick to come away with the win.
Overall, the four takeaways proved to be big for the Southern Miss defense, giving the offense short fields to work with. The Golden Eagles only had 222 total yards of offense in the contest, 134 of which came through the air.Southern Miss will go on the road to face UAB, who sits in first place in the C-USA West. Kickoff in Birmingham, Alabama is set for 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 20.
Southern Miss will go on the road to face UAB, who sits in first place in the C-USA West. Kickoff in Birmingham, Alabama is set for 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 20.