Hopson’s troops give top effort in blowout win|[9/18/06]

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 18, 2006

HATTIESBURG – Jay Hopson’s plan was simple: Stop Andre Brown.

Hopson, the Southern Miss defensive coordinator, had watched Brown light up the Golden Eagles for 248 yards in a victory last season, and it wasn’t about to happen again.

Hopson’s defense held the standout North Carolina State running back to 48 yards on 13 carries, kept him out of the end zone and led an overall dominating performance in beating the Wolfpack 37-17 in the first Southern Miss home win against a Bowl Championship Series conference opponent since 2002 when USM defeated Illinois of the Big Ten.

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&#8220That was something we focused on, making them throw the ball,” said Hopson, whose defense allowed 274 total yards. &#8220I thought the kids really stepped up to that challenge and shut down the run really well.”

Brown, who was coming off back-to-back 100-yard games, had a 3.9 yards per carry average and his longest run of the night was 9 yards. In the 2005 loss, Brown scored two touchdowns and averaged 8 yards per carry.

&#8220We wanted to come here and pound it down their throat and we didn’t,” N.C. State quarterback Marcus Stone said. &#8220We had to pass it around.”

Stone was intercepted twice, including a pick by Jasper Faulk in the end zone to snuff out a scoring drive. That interception came with Southern Miss leading 20-10 and the Wolfpack knocking on the door.

The Golden Eagles then scored the next 17 points before the Wolfpack added a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

&#8220Other than about three or four plays at Florida, the kids have really been playing well,” said Hopson, a former Warren Central quarterback now in his third season as defensive coordinator in Hattiesburg. &#8220I love this bunch and this means something to them.”

While the Eagles’ defense scuttled any Wolfpack attack, the offense had as good a game as it has had in years.

The Eagles rolled to 442 yards, buoyed by a 177-yard rushing effort by freshman standout Damion Fletcher. Most glaring on the stat sheet, though, was the fact the Eagles never punted.

&#8220I’ve been coaching a long time and I can’t ever remember a game where we didn’t punt,” Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower said.

USM turned the ball over on downs once – on its last drive of the night and trying to run out the clock. Four Southern Miss scoring drives were at least 11 plays long.

&#8220The offensive line did a tremendous job,” Fletcher said. &#8220They were opening holes so wide you could drive an 18-wheeler through them.”

Junior quarterback Jeremy Young, with time to throw and Fletcher’s running backing him up, completed 13 of 19 passes for 181 yards. He was sacked only once.

Now 3-1, the Eagles begin their Conference USA slate with what are expected to be the two toughest games of the conference schedule. USM is scheduled to play Central Florida on Sept. 26, then travel to Tulsa a week later. Both games will be on ESPN2.