HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Southern Miss welcomes old foe Louisiana to The Rock for the first time in 14 years as the two schools meet as members of the Sun Belt Conference, Thursday night, in front of a nationally televised audience.
Game time takes place at 6:30 p.m., and can be seen on ESPN2, as well as heard on an affiliate of the Southern Miss Sports Network by Learfield.
The schools clash here for the first time since the 2008 campaign when the Golden Eagles captured a 51-21 decision in both team’s season opener.
Southern Miss (4-3 overall, 2-1 Sun Belt) enters the contest having won its last two-straight and four of its last five games.
The Golden Eagles play a Ragin’ Cajun squad (4-3, 2-2) that come to Hattiesburg with a two-game winning streak of their own, having beaten Marshall 23-13 on the road and then pasted Arkansas State 38-18 last weekend in Lafayette.
In a series that dates to 1923, the two schools meet for the 53rd time which will tie for the second-longest series in terms of games in USM’s history, equaling the number of meetings with Louisiana Tech, and trailing only Memphis for most games played against at 62.
Southern Miss holds a 40-11-1 series advantage, including a current nine-game winning streak heading into this contest. This game marks the first affair between the schools since they met for the only time in the postseason for the 2016 New Orleans Bowl. The Golden Eagles won that contest 28-21.
This season, the two squads have enjoyed stellar play from their defenses as the Golden Eagles ranked No. 36 nationally in total defense (349.9 yards allowed per game), while the Ragin’ Cajuns rank No. 32 (342.4 ypg).
Southern Miss’ defense has allowed its opposition an average of 264.5 yards over the last two contests as they held its last opponent, Texas State, to minus-6 yards on the ground. That was the first time the team had limited an opponent to negative yards rushing since facing Louisiana Tech in 2015.
Defensive back Malik Shorts continues to lead the Golden Eagles defensively with 53 tackles, closely followed by Santrell Latham at 46 and Jay Stanley with 26. Dominic Quewon ranks first nationally in sacks with seven of the Golden Eagles’ 25 in 2022 as the team holds a No. 5 national ranking at 3.57 per game.
Quewon also has eight of the 61 tackles for loss for the Golden Eagles have accumulated which also ranks No. 5 in the FBS at 8.7 per contest.
Offensively, Zach Wilcke makes his seventh start for the Golden Eagles marking the most starts by a true freshman Golden Eagle quarterback since Brett Favre started nine times in 1987. Wilcke, which has thrown at least one touchdown pass in all six starts, has thrown for 979 yards on 90-of-150 passing with seven touchdowns and eight interceptions.
His top target has been senior wideout Jason Brownlee, who has 397 receiving yards on 31 catches – both team-highs – with four touchdown grabs. Jakarius Caston ranks second with 21 catches for 264 yards and three touchdowns, while Tiaquelin Mims has added 12 catches for 172 yards.
Frank Gore, Jr., continues to lead the ground game with 568 rushing yards and four scores. He averages 81.1 yards per contest rushing and 4.9 per carry.
COURTESY SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS