Through six games, the Golden Eagles are 3-3 and on the brink of matching their win total of the last two years. A consistent offense led by an experienced quarterback
and a swarming defense has been the recipe to the change in culture around the program.
One of the leaders of the stellar defense is junior safety D’Nerius Antoine. His initial impact was felt when he forced a turnover on his first series as a Golden Eagle by
stripping Mississippi State running back Ashton Shumpert at the 1-yard line, leading to a touchback in the end zone.
Antoine, a transfer from Trinity Valley Community College in Texas, collected 69 tackles, forced three fumbles and snagged a pair
of interceptions in his sophomore season. His statistics, along with his combination of size, speed and instincts, gained the attention of Oklahoma State.
The All-Region safety committed to the Cowboys, but eventually signed with Southern Miss as a mid- year transfer, enrolling in January.
Antoine’s playmaking ability can also be seen in the box score, as he leads the team in tackles and forced fumbles. He is also fourth on the team in tackles for loss. Antoine’s nose for the ball can be described by a motto that he lives by on the field.
“It’s simple,” Antoine said. “See the ball, hit the ball. I feel like what I do best (is) get to the ball quick.”
Antoine has been praised as potentially the best athlete on the roster. Southern Miss defensive coordinator David Duggan, in an interview with Clarion-Ledger, said Antoine “plays at a different level than a lot of players.”
It is evident what the junior college transfer does best, and that is finding the ball. Antoine arrived on campus as a linebacker, but by the end of fall camp, he was named starting safety.
First impressions are the most lasting. The Golden Eagles’ fan base may think about the forced
fumble at the goal line as their favorite Antoine moment. But his favorite moment was his key interception against Nebraska.
“(My favorite moment was in) the Nebraska game,” Antoine said. “The interception gained us momentum.”
While Antoine was not on the roster last season, it is clear that there is a more positive atmosphere surrounding the team. Antoine credits the leadership on the team.
“I feel there is more leadership on the team,” Antoine said. “Everyone is being vocal and stepping up.”
For some players that play outside of a Power Five conference, they find motivation in being a big fish in a small pond. For Antoine, he does not have to look far for motivation to take the field on Saturdays.
“I do it for my teammates,” Antoine said. “We play for each other.”
Expectations are high for the Golden Eagles as they are off to one of their best starts since the Larry Fedora era. Antoine made it clear that you can only win one game at a time, there is no reason for looking ahead.
The Golden Eagles look to capture their second conference win of the season against division opponent Texas-San Antonio (1-5, 1-1) Saturday at 6 p.m. for USM’s homecoming game.