HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) — There was no wild celebration after Southern Miss’ 31-16 victory over Kansas on Friday night.
Instead, quarterback Austin Davis gave some high fives, hugged a few teammates and then jogged toward the locker room. After all, the Jayhawks aren’t the first BCS opponent to be humbled on the Golden Eagles’ home field.
“We thought this was very winnable coming in,” Davis said. “We played with the attitude we were supposed to play with and had a lot of fun out there.”
Davis completed 19 of 24 passes for 155 yards and ran for 61 yards and a touchdown, and Desmond Johnson ran for 89 yards and a touchdown.
Southern Miss (2-1) has won 10 straight home games dating to 2008. The Golden Eagles have been hard on BCS teams who have ventured to Hattiesburg in recent years, also beating Virginia 37-34 last season and North Carolina State 37-17 in 2006.
The Golden Eagles won despite several missed opportunities, dropping two easy interceptions in the first half, including one that would have been a sure touchdown. Star receiver DeAndre Brown didn’t have a great game either, catching three passes for 34 yards.
But thanks to Davis, solid defense and big plays from the special teams, perfection wasn’t needed. Southern Miss broke the game open late in the first half when Johnson ran untouched 49 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-3 with 3:45 remaining in the second quarter.
Barely two minutes later, Tim Green burst through the line to block a punt and Deron Wilson scooped up the ball for an easy 7-yard score and a 21-3 halftime lead.
Kansas (1-2) briefly regrouped in the third quarter, putting together an 11-play, 59-yard drive that ended with DeShaun Sands’ 8-yard touchdown run that made it 21-10.
But Davis answered for Southern Miss with a 1-yard touchdown run. The Golden Eagles often used a hurry-up offense that caught the Jayhawks out of position.
“We didn’t do anything differently this week,” Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora said. “These guys just played with passion and emotion. I thought our sideline energy was much improved and everyone played their role.”
Southern Miss held Kansas to 274 total yards, and the Golden Eagles were in the Jayhawks’ backfield all night long, finishing with 10 tackles for a loss, including four sacks.
“Offensively we played well,” Davis said. “But we didn’t have to. Take away their last scoring drive and our defense was dominate. I have no question about those guys going forward.”
Kansas continued its roller coaster early season. The Jayhawks lost a stunner to North Dakota State 6-3 in the opener before recovering with an equally stunning 28-25 win over then-No. 15 Georgia Tech last week.
This performance was somewhere in between those two extremes, though it wasn’t nearly good enough to beat Southern Miss. The Jayhawks often looked confused, with several wasted timeouts and awkward formations.
After a stellar performance against Georgia Tech, the Kansas freshman duo of quarterback Jordan Webb and running back James Sims didn’t have as much success. Webb completed 16 of 26 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown, and Sims ran for 74 yards on 20 carries.
“We’ve got to continue to develop our players and be able to execute,” Gill said.