(Photos/Sean Smith) (Video/Austin Lindsey)
The Super Back offense once again paved the way to victory as Southern Miss defeated Florida International University 37-17 on Senior Night. The Golden Eagles ended the season winning its last two games after a 1-8 start.
“[It was a] really good way to end the year. I’m so proud of these kids and the way they battled. [With] all the stuff they’ve been through the last two years, they hung together and kept representing the university the right way,” said Head Coach Will Hall.
The Super Backs combined for 324 yards on the ground with Dajon Richard eclipsing 100 yards for the second consecutive game and Frank Gore Jr. rushing for two touchdowns and 68 yards. Gore also threw two touchdowns on four of five passes.
“He’s good,” wideout Jason Brownlee said about Gore. “He’s everything you want back there in that backfield. When you’ve got Frank back there, you know something good is going to happen.”
The Golden Eagles started the game strong as Jay Stanley forced a fumble that gave Southern Miss possession. The Golden Eagles scored on a 29-yard touchdown rush by Dajon Richard after a 92-yard drive on nine plays.
Stanley was not done wrecking havoc, as he intercepted Bortenschlager on the next play from scrimmage. One play later, Frank Gore Jr. threw a 34-yard touchdown to Jason Brownlee.
The Nasty Bunch defense forced a three-and-out on the next FIU possession, and Natrone Brooks returned the punt 77 yards to the FIU two-yard line. Frank Gore Jr. plunged into the endzone to give Southern Miss a commanding 21-0 lead.
Stanley accounted for his third turnover of the first quarter as he recovered an EJ Wilson fumble but the Golden Eagles’ drive ended after a trick play resulted in an interception thrown by Jason Goldstein.
“We’ve been playing good defense, but we’ve been talking about forcing turnovers,” said Stanley after the game.
After the Goldstein interception, the Panthers clawed their way back into the ballgame. Bortenschlager connected with Tyrese Chambers on a 91-yard touchdown pass.
The Golden Eagles went three-and-out, and the Panthers marched down the field with an eight-yard touchdown rush by Lexington Joseph to get the Panthers back within one possession.
Southern Miss scored next as Briggs Bourgeois converted on a 25-yard field goal and then FIU answered with a field goal drive of their own.
The Golden Eagles’ next offensive possession would turn the tide as they drove down the field on a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. The pivotal moment occurred on 4th and 1 to begin the fourth quarter.
“I’m going to be honest with you; I wanted to punt it,” said Hall. “Our kids came to the
side and said ‘nope, we’re going for it.’”
Hall reluctantly agreed and was visibly fired up on the sideline after Gore converted on a five-yard rush.
“We took over the game from that play on. That’s what teams that win do,” said Hall.
Gore finished the drive with a five-yard touchdown rush to put Southern Miss further ahead at 31-17 and on the next possession, Gore once again connected with Brownlee on a 34-yard touchdown to put the game away at 37-17.
The Super Back offense provided the spark that allowed the Golden Eagles to end the season on a high note. Though it proved to be successful, Hall said the offensive scheme in 2022 will not revolve around the Super Backs
“We’re going to play a real quarterback, [and] we’re going to have a quarterback get drafted and play in the NFL. That’s who we are. We want to be a program that develops kids to get in the NFL,” said Hall.
He mentioned Ty Keyes and new recruits as those who will vie for the starting quarterback job. Gore also said he looks forward to returning to his role at running back.
Despite the rush-heavy offense, star wideout Jason Brownlee was able to shine down the stretch. He finished the game with five catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns. He battled injuries throughout the season and ended on a high note with the Super Back offense.
“It was hard, but we just had to find a way to keep going and try to make something work,” Brownlee said.
Despite finishing the season at 3-9, Hall remains determined that Southern Miss will be a powerhouse in due time.
“I’m proud of the direction we’re going in. I’m gonna say it one more time: If you’re gonna get us, you better have got us this year because there’s gonna come a day where you ain’t gonna be able to get us.”