Photo courtesy USM Athletics
Redshirt junior wide receiver Quez Watkins stepped on the field for the University of Southern Mississippi for the first time in the 2019 season against Troy University after missing the first two games of the season against Alcorn State University and Mississippi State University. Head coach Jay Hopson declined to say why the wide receiver would not play in the first two weeks of the 2019 season. Watkins attended junior college in the spring semester of the 2018-2019 academic year to regain eligibility.
Watkins returned to USM in time for fall camp, and the league's 14 head coaches named him as Preseason All-Conference USA. Watkins showed up and showed out against Troy in his first time seeing action for the season.
The star receiver caught seven passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns against the Trojans. Watkins' 209 receiving yards were the most in the Football Bowl Subdivision for week three and fifth for most receiving yards in a game in school history. The Athens, Ala., native notched the sixth 200-yard receiving game in school history, which was also the sixth 100-yard receiving game for Watkins during his Southern Miss career.
Watkins earned C-USA Offensive Player of the Week for his impactful receiving game. The receiver was not the only Southern Miss player to enjoy a big game against the Trojans. This is the second player of the week award for Watkins after he won the award for special teams player of the week in 2018.
Both teams exploded on offense as USM racked up 626 yards in total offense, and Troy finished 528 total yards. Quarterback Jack Abraham threw for 463 yards on 28-of-36 passing with two touchdowns. Fellow wide receiver Jaylond Adams added 180 receiving yards on 11 receptions, and added a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, earning him the honor of C-USA Special Teams Player of the Week. This is the second time this season he has been named special teams player of the week.
Watkins and Adams are the first pair of Golden Eagle wide receivers to record a 100-yard receiving game since last October against North Texas University. Southern Miss survived a shootout against the Troy to earn a 47-42 victory.
The win moves the Golden Eagles to 2-1 on the season and the first road victory of the season.
Watkins is looking to improve on his redshirt sophomore season, during which he started in all 13 games. He led the team with 72 catches, 889 receiving yards and nine touchdowns, and he led the conference with 6.5 catches per game. The receiver played in all 13 games as a redshirt freshman as he caught 23 passes for 337 yards and two touchdowns. During the 2016 season, Watkins took a redshirt and did not play in any of the team's games.
Southern Miss faces a major obstacle this week as the Golden Eagles take on the University of Alabama. A big game by Watkins against the Crimson Tide could send his draft stock soaring.
USM and Alabama will face off on Saturday, Sept. 21, with an 11 a.m. kickoff and will be broadcast on ESPN2.
Bryan Flynn writes about sports for the Jackson Free Press. Follow @jfpsports for updates.