September 2, 2018 12:38:23 AM
HATTIESBURG -- Southern Mississippi football coach Jay Hopson faced plenty of questions entering the season.
Hopson had to be pleased Saturday that the Golden Eagles found their share of answers.
In his collegiate debut, sophomore quarterback Jack Abraham was 21-for-27 for 242 yards and four touchdowns as the Golden Eagles scored early and often on their way to a 55-7 victory against Jackson State before 29,176 at M.M. Roberts Stadium.
"Always good to get the first win," Hopson said. "We started fast, and I really liked our first three or four possessions on offense, and then on defense, we were really good, too, got some three (plays)-and-outs early.
"It was a good opportunity to play a lot of guys in the second half."
Sophomore receiver Quez Watkins became the first Golden Eagle in three seasons to score four touchdowns in a game, hauling in three of Abraham's touchdown passes while also returning a punt for a touchdown for the first time in his career.
Watkins scored Southern Miss' first two touchdowns of the season on Abraham passes of 28 yards and 22 yards. He added a third touchdown on the Golden Eagles' first punt return for a touchdown since 2016 an 81-yard effort that gave Southern Miss a 24-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
Watkins, who had eight catches for 138 yards, capped a career night with a 24-yard touchdown pass reception, giving the Golden Eagles a 48-0 lead early in the third quarter over the Tigers.
Watkins became the first Southern Miss player since receiver Allenzae Staggers in 2016 to catch three touchdowns in a game. He also became the first player to score four times in a game since running back Jalen Richard rushed for four touchdowns.
Abraham, who transferred from Northwest Mississippi Community College in January, also tossed a 2-yard touchdown pass to junior Jordan Mitchell.
The Golden Eagles also used 46-yard and 29-yard field goals by senior Parker Shaunfield and senior rover Xavier Marion's first career touchdown on a 26-yard fumble return to build their big lead.
JSU scored on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Jarrad Hayes to Kobe Gates on the final play of the third quarter before true freshman Tate Whately, one of three Golden Eagles' quarterbacks to make their collegiate debuts Saturday night, scored on a 15-yard run with 2:48 to play.
The Golden Eagles have won all three meetings between the schools.
Southern Miss had 457 yards, including 255 yards passing and 202 yards rushing. The Golden Eagles came up with four turnovers and blocked a field goal.
Junior college transfer safety Ky'el Hemby and freshman safety Shannon Showers had interceptions, while Marion and senior defensive lineman Delmond Landry recovered fumbles.
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