HATTIESBURG, Ms. (WDAM) - Jaylond Adams carved his name in University of Southern Mississippi football lore Saturday night.
Adams returned a kickoff and punt for touchdowns in USM’s season-opening 38-10 victory over Alcorn State University, sending athletic officials on a detective mission, scouring the program’s record book to ascertain whether anyone ever had done such in a Golden Eagle uniform.
Adams, a sophomore from Adamsville, Ala., took the season’s opening kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown. The last time a Golden Eagle had run back a kickoff: Jalen Richard against the University of North Carolina-Charlotte in 2015.
With USM up 28-10 early in the fourth quarter, Adams fielded an Alcorn State punt at his 20-yard line and streaked 80 yards straight through the middle of the field to bring the majority of the announced 31,706 to its feet for the second time Saturday.
The last time a Golden Eagle returned a punt for a touchdown: Quez Watkins in the 2018 season opener with Jackson State.
Watkins wasn’t available Saturday, suspended for USM’s first two games for an unspecified violation of team rules. But Adams stepped in more than admirably.
His kickoff return gave the Golden Eagles their lone touchdown of a first half, one in which USM struggled mightily on offense.
Two, chip-shot field goals, the first of freshman signee Andrew Stein’s career, gave USM a 13-0 halftime lead, as the Golden Eagles had to settle for three points in deep trips into the red zone.
When De’Shawn Waller burst up the middle for 15 yards early in the third quarter, the Braves were within 13-7.
But USM answered immediately when quarterback Jack Abraham took advantage of a stumble by ASU cornerback A.J. Bruce to find Neil McLaurin for a 55-yard score. After a little trickeration with holder Zac Everett running in the 2-point conversion, USM led 21-7.
ASU got within 21-10 on Corey McCullough’s 46-yard field goal, but Abraham squeezed through the left side of a collapsing pocket to score on a 14-yard run, and after ASU was forced to punt away its ensuing possession, ripped through the middle of the field and the Braves’ coverage to leave USM up 35-10.
Stein wrapped up the scoring with his longest field goal of the night, a 24-yarder.
USM struggled to run the ball, especially after starter Trivenskey Mosley went down and out of the game with what appeared to be a significant injury to his right leg. Mosley sat on the bench most of the night before trading in his pads for a pair of crutches and a knee brace as the game wound down.
The Golden Eagles wound up with 96 net yards rushing, the bulk of that coming during the end of the game. At halftime, USM had 6 yards rushing.
But Abraham came through with an 18-of-28 performance, throwing for 293 yards and a touchdown. His favorite target, Oak Grove product Jordan Mitchell, turned in the second, 100-yard game of his career, with seven catches for 133 yards.
Tim Jones finished with 68 yards on five catches.
Alcorn senior quarterback Noah Johnson finished 17-of-31 for 143 yards against a USM defense that sacked him four times and banged him around on another dozen occasions.
The Braves were limited to 219 total yards.
USM (1-0) will hit the road for the next three weeks, starting at 2:30 p.m. Saturday when it visits Mississippi State.