Photo by Makayla Puckett
Over the past 29 matchups between Southern Miss and Mississippi State, each school has earned 14 wins with one tie in 1973. With the last contest between the in-state rivals taking place at the Rock in 2015, the Golden Eagles seek to break the four-game losing streak to the Bulldogs.
Both teams are coming off of a week one win and are eager to earn bragging rights across the state.
Redshirt senior Jordan Mitchell was a part of the last Golden Eagle squad to face the Bulldogs. The tight end took the field as a true freshman for a few drives, including trick play in which he threw a pass that was “kind of a duck.”
“Getting the chance to have a second opportunity to go over there and get a W I’m really looking forward to,” Mitchell said. “I definitely think that the in-state games, especially with it being a power five school, just for us to be able to go up there and just compete with them and have bragging rights when you can look back on Saturday’s game.”
Coach Jay Hopson and his staff agreed there are areas that need to be cleaned up before the big game on Sept. 7. With two fumbles and 10 penalties, offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner hopes to improve on protecting the ball as well as other elements within the squad’s control.
“The biggest thing with us is cleaning up the things that we can control,” Faulkner said. “That’s where we’re at right now in the season, worried about us getting better at the details, you know, playing smarter.”
Overall the Golden Eagle offense had 96 rushing yards and 293 passing. Redshirt junior Jack Abraham had a 56.8% completion rate including a 55-yard pass in the third quarter. With an 89-yard kickoff return, wide receiver Jaylond Adams was responsible for two of the Golden Eagles’ four touchdowns earning him Conference USA special team’s player of the week.
“In the first half, you know, we had a special team’s touchdown. Then we had all going to possessions where they get the ball. So we didn’t get a ton of opportunities either in the first half,” Hopson said. “I thought in the third quarter and in the early fourth quarter, we were able to move the ball successfully.”
Leading the Bulldog’s offense to a total of 497 yards was Penn State transfer Tommy Stevens. During his first collegiate start, the Mississippi State quarterback had a 66.7% completion rate passing for 236 yards with two of those passes resulting in touchdowns.
“The thing that I like is that he was incredibly decisive,” Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead said. “There were very few times where he dropped back and didn’t know where to go with the ball. As far as the progressions, he was reading the coverage and doing a great job diagnosing [the defense] and getting the ball out of his hand quickly.”
Finishing the 2018 season as the number one defense nationally, Mississippi State had just three tackles for total loss of nine yards and one sack against Louisiana. Southern Miss, finishing third nationally in 2018, had eight tackles for loss of 40 yards as well as five sacks throughout their game against Alcorn State.
Despite the 38-10 win over Alcorn State, the Golden Eagles have worked towards this rivalry game since day one.
“Coach Hop tells us not overlook anybody that we play. I feel like we bought into that and focused on Alcorn State for the majority of camp and everything,” Mitchell said. “In the back of everybody’s head is that we play state the second week, so I think we’re all excited and looking forward to correct enormous stakes from this past week and just focus on them.”