AUBURN – With 13:47 left in the fourth quarter, sophomore defensive end Jacques Turner sacked Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham for a seven-yard loss. The sack forced Auburn to attempt a 53-yard field goal that was subsequently tipped and missed.
“I thought we were definitely physical tonight,” Southern Miss Head Coach Jay Hopson said. “But our defense has played pretty physical all season. And again, we had some plays here and there that were tough ones. I sure would have like to see that one call tonight get reviewed again. When we hit Tim Jones across the middle, that would have been nice to have a review there. But our guys played hard.”
Turner’s sack was the illustration of Southern Miss’ ability to dominate the line of scrimmage against Auburn’s offensive line. The Golden Eagle defense finished with seven tackles for loss, three sacks and four quarterback hurries. Despite the defensive line’s ability to contain Auburn’s offense, it was not enough as Southern Miss loss 24-13.
“We have got to focus on getting to the quarterback,” Turner said. “Before this [game], we only had two sacks, so we are trying to get back to the quarterback and change the game.”
The Tigers struck first in the contest with quarterback Jarrett Stidham throwing a 46-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. At the start of the second quarter, Southern Miss almost duplicated its 24 total yards in the first quarter on the team’s only scoring drive of the first half. The Golden Eagles drove 20 yards to set up a 44-yard field goal by Parker Shaunfield.
The Tigers then put together a 13-play, 73-yard drive and scored on a six-yard touchdown run. Following a brief Southern Miss drive and the following 64-yard punt by Zac Everett, the game entered a two hour and 44-minute lightning delay, which occurred with 4:27 left to play in the first half. The two teams eventually played the rest of the first half, and Southern Miss headed into halftime down 14-3.
Southern Miss struck first in the second half with Shaunfield hitting a 51-yard field goal, which tied his career long. The field goal cut into Auburn’s lead and made it a 14-6 game.
Auburn immediately answered back following the field goal with a 53-yard pass play that led to Stidham’s second touchdown pass two plays later to extend the Tigers’ lead 21-6.
Southern Miss quickly responded with a 24-yard catch by sophomore wide receiver Quez Watkins. Abraham found Watkins two plays later for a 13-yard touchdown pass, making the score 21-13.
With less than six minutes left in the game, Turner stripped the ball from Stidham. Senior linebacker Paxton Schrimsher recovered the ball and Southern Miss took over at its 49-yard line.
However, Abraham was quickly intercepted, which led to a 24-yard field goal by Auburn, sealing the 24-13 win for the Tigers.
Abraham finished 30-of-44 through the air for 215 yards, two interceptions and a touchdown. Watkins finished the game with five catches for 48 yards and a touchdown.
“We never like losing, it’s always tough,” Hopson said. “But I saw a bunch of Golden Eagles that fought for 60 minutes, I guarantee you that. And something that as a football coach you’re always proud of. You’re proud of their effort, you’re proud of the way they fought. We gave ourselves a chance there in the 4th quarter to put ourselves in position to win. Didn’t capitalize on those opportunities. We had a couple of other opportunities we would have loved to have had. But I did see a lot out of this football team. And as a football coach, you want to win every game, but when you see guys play hard and give the effort that our guys gave tonight, you’re certainly going to be proud of them.”
Southern Miss will have a bye next weekend but will return to action on the road against North Texas on Oct. 13.