Southern Miss drops Miami matchup 30-7 after taking early lead

The No. 15 Miami Hurricanes (2-0) flexed their strength with a 30-7 win against Southern Miss (0-2), but the Golden Eagles put Hard Rock Stadium on an early upset watch.

True freshman quarterback Zach Wilcke connected with Jason Brownlee on an over-the-shoulder shot to the endzone for a 32-yard touchdown in the second quarter to give Southern Miss a 7-3 lead.

Wilcke’s 16 completions were a significant shift in offense from Southern Miss’ superback system featured in week one, marking the most completions since Jake Lange’s 23 last October against Rice. He threw for a 59% completion rate for 207 yards with a touchdown and a pick.

“I thought he played well. His eyes were right and I thought he threw an accurate ball which we see every day in practice,” Head Coach Will Hall said. “We made the decision to play him really more about Miami than about us. I got great respect for Miami but they [had] a base defense and let their athletes play, so we knew Zach would know where they would be and let his talent take over.”

Southern Miss fans saw more of what was expected from the defense, but this time, against a ranked offense. The Nasty Bunch held the Hurricanes to just 20 rushing yards in the first half and pressured quarterback Tyler Van Dyke with constant pressures that resulted in three sacks.

“We’re going to be a tough one,” defensive back Malik Shorts said. “There’s a long road ahead, but Rome wasn’t built in one day either. We still have time, but this defense is probably the best defense I’ve been a part of since I’ve been here at USM that I can say I contributed to. These guys play hard and will continue to play hard, and I’m just thankful for these guys- we push each other every day.”

Shorts led the defense with another double-digit tackle performance, getting 11 stops and again earning an interception against a ranked opponent.

Southern Miss shocked early, but the game’s momentum quickly shifted after a dropped interception by Natrone Brooks led to a continued drive capped off by a one-yard touchdown rush by Henry Parrish Jr. to make it 10-7.

The Hurricanes never looked back, putting 27 unanswered points on the Golden Eagles with three consecutive drives for touchdowns.

“We wanted to come out hard and make them feel it, but looking back at it, we’ve got to bring that same energy in the second half along with us, and if we do that, we can close out some games,” Shorts said. “We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times on third down. We’ve just got to get off the field on third down.”

Miami came out of the half with a heavy rush attack, rushing ten times on a drive with Thaddius Franklin Jr. scoring on a diving seven-yard attempt.

The Hurricanes’ establishment of the run game catapulted the production of their offense and marked a notable difference between the teams. Miami rushed for 191 yards total while Southern Miss rushed for just 24 yards.

“I thought they wore on us as the game went on, specifically in the trenches,” Hall said. “I thought they did a great job and we’re proud of how our kids came out and the energy they had I thought we did some good things early offensively- better than what we’ve been doing. But we’re not really into moral victories anymore.”

Frank Gore Jr. could not replicate his week one performance or have the homecoming he wanted, something he placed on failed execution and Miami’s attack in the box.

“We know we’re a dangerous team, we know we’re going to play hard every game and fight. I feel like we rode the roller coaster too high when things were going good, but we’ll fix it and be ready for next week,” Gore said.

However, the offense did get a look at what it has not been able to in a while- its receiver play.

Brownlee turned 11 targets into five catches for 102 yards and the team’s lone touchdown. Jakarius Caston caught four passes for 23 yards and Demarcus Jones hauled in a leaping 36-yard catch.

Southern Miss had opportunities to strike back in the second half, but turned the ball over three times, including Wilcke’s red zone interception and a fumble from the freshman.

Wilcke made Southern Miss’ quarterback situation even more interesting, but both Hall and he stated that Ty Keyes should be cleared soon and be back to compete for the starting job.

“I thought [this week] was really encouraging for the receivers because they didn’t really get the ball last week but Ty’s going to come back and be ready to compete for the starting job- he’s a really good player too,” Wilcke said.

Southern Miss returns to Hattiesburg to play Northwestern State on Sept. 17 at 7 p.m.