By The Associated Press
HATTIESBURG — It’s been a busy year for Louisiana Tech freshman quarterback Nick Isham.
The Westlake Village, Calif., native committed to the Bulldogs in January, graduated from high school in May, left for college in August and won the starting quarterback position last week.
On Saturday, he’ll face his toughest task to date when Tech makes the trip to Hattiesburg, Miss., for the season-opener on Saturday in a late-night 9 p.m. kickoff.
At 17 years, 10 months and 27 days, Isham will be the youngest quarterback to start a Division I game since Texas A&M’s David “Moon” Walker made his debut in 1973, just a month younger than Isham will be.
His counterpart couldn’t be more opposite.
Southern Miss’ four-year starter, Austin Davis, will be making his 32nd collegiate start Saturday night, and has already passed Brett Favre on many of the school’s career charts.
The 22-year-old is more than four years Isham’s elder.
In Ruston, the youth movement has been the talk of the town coming off a forgettable 5-7 season last year, but not for the Bulldogs.
“It’s come up here and there,” Isham said. “I’m just trying to stay focused on the game at this point. Age is just a number once you step onto the field. It’s who’s most productive that really counts. You just try to do your best.”
While Davis will be facing practically the same Tech defense he did in USM’s 13-12 win in Ruston last season, Isham will be working against a new scheme under a new defensive coordinator at Southern Miss.
Second-year head coach Sonny Dykes named the 6-foot, 180-pound freshman the starter last Wednesday over red-shirt junior Colby Cameron, who had three previous starts.
Word of Dykes’ announcement made the rounds at Southern Miss.
“I heard he was 17,” Southern Miss linebacker Korey Williams said. “But, I’m pretty sure the La. Tech coaches have prepared him for this game. Obviously he’s doing something right if he’s been named the starting quarterback at such a young age, but I do expect him to come out there with that on his mind.”
While Isham tries to prove himself, Davis and the Golden Eagles are trying to kick-start what could be a big season.
Coming off of an 8-5 season full of missed opportunities a year ago, head coach Larry Fedora is hoping the addition of co-defensive coordinator Dan Disch from Illinois and his 4-2-5 defensive scheme will give the Golden Eagles a defensive spark.
At least enough of a spark to keep up with the Southern Miss offense, which has never ranked worse than 31st nationally since Fedora and Davis arrived in 2008.
But the Louisiana Tech defense countered that potent offense last season and held Southern Miss to a season-low 13 points.
“It’s going to be a good game,” Davis said. “I’d expect them to do a lot of the same things on defense. Last year, they manned us up and blitzed when they needed to and we didn’t have an answer … We just need to make some plays, some big plays, and get them out of what they’re doing, because we never did that last year and we could have easily lost.”