1: Denzel Ware
Ware was a force this game. He had a fumble recovery that he took to the house for a touchdown, forced a fumble on a sack, and had 1.5 tackles for loss. He was wherever the ball was and made an impact multiple times.
2: Darius West
So this is what a healthy West looks like….I love it! 6 tackles, a tackle for loss, and a forced fumble. If he keeps up this level of play, he and Edwards could be one of the top safety duos in the SEC.
3: The Defensive Line
Last year Southern Miss ran for 262yds and 3 touchdowns on Kentucky, a trend we would see continue all season. Yesterday the group that was looked at as the weakest group on the team all offseason was probably the best. They filled gaps, pushed Southern Miss’ offensive line back, caused pressure, and most importantly only gave up 55yds on 38 carries for 1.4yds a carry. Oh, and no rushing touchdowns! This group came to play in 2017.
4: Matt Elam
Yes, that Matt Elam. He finally looked like the player we have hoped for the past three seasons. He was so dominate in pushing the offensive linemen around, they finally started double teaming him. That led to freeing up the linebackers to cause havoc. Elam had 4 tackles and one was for a loss. He did what he’s supposed to do in demanding the offensive line to stop him, thus freeing up others behind him to get pressure in the back field.
Matt Panton and the Johnson to Conrad connection:
Last year the only thing as bad and the defensive line was the punting. Enter Aussie, Matt Panton. Yesterday he averaged 42yds per punt with a long of 50. Flipping the field multiple times and giving the Golden Eagles bad starting field position possession after possession.
Last year it was one of the most head scratching things was “Johnson drops back, he has Conrad open over the middle…..incomplete”. But yesterday it happened, IT FINALLY HAPPENED! Johnson hit CJ on that little over the middle pass three times for 97yds and a touchdown. Showing that Stephen worked hard in the offseason to improve his short to mid accuracy, and making CJ into the weapon we’ve all hoped for.