Southern vs USM

Southen DB Elijah Allen brings down USM RB Ito Smith during their game with the University of Southern Mississipppi in Hattiesburg on Saturday.

Rick Guy

One of the goals for the Southern defense this season is to limit the number of explosive plays by opposing offenses.

In that department, during Saturday's 45-0 loss at Southern Miss, the Jaguars clearly got burned.

"Chunk plays" are defined as passes that gain 15 or more yards and runs that gain 10 or more yards. The deeper, more talented Golden Eagles racked up those big plays in bunches.

They hit 14 chunk plays in all — seven each in the running and passing games.

That ruined an otherwise solid night for the Jaguars defense. Of the 477 yards Southern allowed, 324 (67.9 percent) came on those 14 chunk plays.

The previous week against South Carolina State, the Southern defense gave up a handful of explosive plays, but those were mainly the result of poor tackling angles. Defenders sometimes over-pursued, leaving cutback lanes wide open.

Those issues were less apparent Saturday, but Southern still had a few lapses.

On Ito Smith’s 27-yard touchdown in the first quarter, senior linebacker Kentavious Preston said he was not where he was supposed to be, leaving a gaping hole for Smith to run through.

“It really wasn’t what they were doing,” Preston said. “It was what we were doing wrong.”

Later in the first quarter, Southern left receiver Allenzae Staggers uncovered on a vertical route, allowing Southern Miss quarterback Kwandre Griggs to float a pass into the end zone for a touchdown.

“We’re going to go in Sunday and Monday, correct our mistakes and get better,” Preston said.

Territorial birds

How does a team build up a 35-0 halftime lead like Southern Miss did Saturday?

Having four possessions that start on the other team’s side of the 50 in the first half is a good place to start. That is not counting the fumbled snap Southern Miss recovered in the end zone.

A combination of turnovers and an offense that picked up just three first downs in the first two quarters led to Southern Miss frequently starting with excellent field position.

The Golden Eagles possessed the ball 14 times, and their average starting field position was their own 46-yard line.

“They capitalized on some things,” SU coach Dawson Odums said. “We got beat in certain areas, and when you’re playing against teams like this, it’s a difference. ... It’s tough sledding for us, but we’ve got to get better, and we will.”

Special teams debuts

Freshman punter Austin Summerbell made his Southern debut, replacing Taylor Merritt after Merritt’s fumbled snap in the end zone resulted in a Southern Miss touchdown.

And it was a busy day for Summerbell. He punted six times in the first half alone and finished with six punts for a 38.2-yard average and a long of 64.

Merritt returned to the game to start the second half, and his first punt pinned Southern Miss inside its own 10.

Fellow freshman Jamar Washington made his debut as Southern’s kick returner after senior defensive back Danny Johnson handled return duties in the opener.

Washington’s first return went for 32 yards, and he finished the game with a 19.8-yard average on four returns.

Getting the boot

Here’s one record Southern did not want to establish.

Between Summerbell (six punts, 229 yards) and Merritt (four punts, 148 yards), Southern established a new high for most punts in one game (10) in the Odums era.

It’s the most punts in one game by a Southern team since at least the beginning of the 2011 season.

The 377 yards accumulated by those 10 punts were the second most in the Odums era. His 2014 Jaguars punted nine times for 396 yards in the season opener against UL-Lafayette.

Follow Luke Johnson on Twitter, @ByLukeJohnson.