Southern Miss dismantles Kansas Ex-WC star Hunter leads strong defensive effort

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 18, 2010

HATTIESBURG — Since his sophomore season at Warren Central, Chico Hunter has desired for one thing on the football field — the perfect hit.

On Friday night, at the most opportune time, he finally got it and put the seal on the Golden Eagles’ 31-16 victory over Big 12 opponent Kansas.

With Kansas facing a fourth-and-2 at the Southern Miss 27 with 10 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, quarterback Jordan Webb rolled out to the right while Hunter came unblocked from the blind side. He buried Webb into the M.M. Roberts Stadium turf, ending Kansas’ last shot at defeating a Golden Eagles’ team maligned all season for spotty defense.

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“That was it, the perfect hit. Tell all the people back in Vicksburg I finally got it,” Hunter said seconds after joining teammates in the south end zone singing the school’s alma mater and saluting some of the 30,211 at The Rock.

“Coach said they were going to try something to trick us and for me to look for the bootleg,” said Hunter, who recorded eight tackles, including the key fourth-quarter sack. “When I saw his back, I just put it in the books.”

Hunter’s sack highlighted a Golden Eagle defense playing more like the teams of the late 1990s than what has been shown in the Larry Fedora era.

The defense held the Jayhawks (1-2), making their first appearance in Mississippi, to 138 passing yards — 41 of those coming on a pass late in the fourth quarter with the Golden Eagles holding a commanding 31-10 lead.

Webb, a redshirt freshman, completed 16 of 26 passes for 138 yards, while James Sims ran for 77 yards to lead the Jayhawks.

“We played hard and nasty,” said defensive back Deron Wilson, who returned a blocked punt for a second-quarter touchdown. “But we have to do it on a consistent basis to compare ourselves with some of the guys who played before us.”

The victory gives Southern Miss a 2-1 record and was its 10th straight home victory. Southern Miss opened the season with a 41-13 loss to South Carolina, but coming off a blowout victory of Prairie View a week ago, the Eagles faced a team fresh off a victory over then-No. 15 Georgia Tech.

“We had been hearing all week about what they were going to do to us,” Hunter said. “We knew what we had to do.”

The defense had plenty of help early. Running back V.J. Floyd tossed a 2-yard touchdown pass with 6:05 to play in the first quarter. Following a Kansas field goal early in the second, freshman Desmond Johnson of Yazoo City streaked down the left sideline for a 49-yard touchdown run and a 14-3 USM lead.

Johnson, who suffered a leg injury that cost him his senior year of high school, led all Southern Miss

runners with 91 yards on eight carries.

Two minutes after Johnson’s TD run, Tim Green broke free on a Kansas punt attempt and Wilson picked up the blocked kick and returned it seven yards for a touchdown and a 21-3 Southern Miss lead at halftime.

“I have to watch the tape,” first-year Kansas coach Turner Gil said. “One missed a block. We have to see what specifically happened. We have to do a better job of coaching and getting the right people to be able to execute.”

The teams traded touchdown runs in the third quarter and Kansas drove deep into Southern Miss territory when Hunter ended any thoughts of a comeback.

“Our defense played great,” said USM quarterback Austin Davis, who was 19-of-24 for 155 yards. “They were swarming to the ball really well and we are going to need them to do that down the road. It was really encouraging.”