Smith caps off Southern Miss career at Independence Bowl


Kenyatta S. Ross

Photo: Kenyatta S. Ross, Photo Editor

Southern Miss Senior running back Ito Smith finished his career as a Golden Eagle at the Walk-On’s Independence Bowl on Wednesday Dec.27, finishing with 190 all-purpose yards in the loss.

In his final game as a Southern Miss Golden Eagle, Smith showed just how important his style of play has been to the program over the past four seasons.

The 2017 first-team All-Conference C-USA selection played an instrumental role on both of the Golden Eagles scoring drives, rushing for a team-high 92-yards on 16 carries. Smith also tacked on 26-receiving yards on four catches and returning four kick returns for 72-yards.

During the postgame press conference, a quiet Smith talked about the things he will miss as a member of the football program.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet.” Smith said. “I’m going to miss my teammates, miss all the coaches, the fun times in the locker room [and] just all the moments with the guys.”

On the first drive of the game, Smith provided fans with his signature style of running, breaking a 33-yard run to set up a quarterback Kwadra Griggs rushing touchdown and an early 6-0 lead over Florida State.

Florida State limited Smith and the Southern Miss offense for the rest of the first half, however. Smith ended the half with eight carries for 60 yards. He also lost one fumble on a screen pass from Griggs with 3:26 to play in the second quarter, giving the Seminoles the ball at their own 24-yard line.

In the second half, Smith set up the second and final scoring drive for the Golden Eagles, breaking runs of 25 and 12 yards that led to a touchdown pass from Griggs to Korey Robertson with 44 seconds left to play in the third quarter. These would be the final points for the Golden Eagles however, as the Florida State defense kept Smith and The Southern Miss offense in check for the remainder of the game.

Despite the loss in his final game, Smith will go down as a player who was instrumental to the Golden Eagles successes over the past four seasons, as evidenced by the fact that he amassed over 4,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving during his collegiate career, becoming one of only 10 players in NCAA history to do so.

Smith also finishes his career as Southern Miss’s all-time leader in all-purpose yards with 6,344, as well as being the program’s second-leading rusher of all-time with 4,606 yards, behind only Damion Fletcher.

Head Coach Jay Hopson had much praise for his star running back’s style of play for the program.

“He is a special, special football player,” Hopson said. “He finds ways to make plays that aren’t even there.”

With his collegiate career now in the books, Smith will now work to boost his stock for the NFL Draft. He will showcase his talents for NFL scouts at the 2018 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama on Jan. 27.