The last time Southern Miss played a team ranked as high as No. 2 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, the year was 1997 and Jeff Bower wasn’t even halfway through his 18-year tenure as head coach of the Golden Eagles. Better yet, USM’s current dynamic duo at wide receiver hadn’t even celebrated a first birthday.
Twenty-two years later, it’s the Quez Watkins and Jaylond Adams show in Hattiesburg where the Black and Gold are quietly the nation’s ninth-ranked passing offense. What a perfect time for that wideout tandem to kickstart USM’s aerial assault just ahead of USM’s date with second ranked Alabama, the country’s third ranked passing attack.
Even though the Crimson Tide is outscoring opponents by 115 points through just three weeks, fourth-year Head Coach Jay Hopson is still feeling good about his two-headed monster, fresh off their combined 18 receptions on the road against Troy to go along with 531 all-purpose yards and three total touchdowns. “Quez and Jaylond had two great games but there’s — I say this in all honesty — there’s five or six guys out there that are dangerous guys, and we might have seven. So that’s a good thing to have offensively. I don’t think that — if someone wants to feel free to take him, that’s fine. If someone says oh, we’ve got to take that guy out of the game, I promise you, we’ve got plenty more that can go to the house.”
In the days following USM’s 47-42 triumph at Troy, Watkins and Adams have been recognized in a big way with the former taking home Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week and the latter earning C-USA Special Teams Player of the Week.
Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban has certainly taken notice of USM’s high octane air raid and is already on trap game alert.
“We’re playing a team this week that’s a very explosive team in Southern Miss. They score a lot of points. They do a lot of things on offense. And this is one of the most explosive teams that we’ve played on special teams. And they’re ranked nationally in all of those areas. So this is not a time for us to be thinking that we don’t have to prepare well and work to focus on the things that we need to do to play well.”
USM’s last trip to Tuscaloosa ended in a 52-12 loss back in 2014. The Golden Eagles and Crimson Tide will kick things off at 11 a.m. Saturday from Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium.