By The Assocated Press
HATTIESBURG — V.J. Floyd made his case to become Southern Miss’ new starting running back Saturday.
Floyd rushed for 83 yards on 12 carries, including a 70-yard romp where he darted to the corner and beat three defenders to the end zone, and caught five passes for 112 yards.
Coach Larry Fedora said he won’t name a starter to replace departed record-shattering running back Damion Fletcher till next fall, and it’s clear he’ll have a tough decision after the Black beat the Gold 45-21.
“Coaches talked to me before the game about making a statement,” said Floyd, son of former Florida State and San Francisco 49ers back Victor Floyd. “I think that’s what I did. But the important thing is that we have depth at this position, and we all bring something different to the table.”
Floyd is the most experienced of the returning running backs and will try to hold off Tracey Lampley, Desmond Johnson and Kendrick Hardy next August. Hardy, a heralded recruit who sat out last season as a true freshman, rushed for 32 yards and turned a screen pass into a 32-yard touchdown.
With the departure of Fletcher, who rushed for 5,302 yards for the Golden Eagles, the loss of four offensive lineman and the absence of starting quarterback Austin Davis, who’s still recovering from a ligament he tore in his left foot last October, a huge offensive performance wasn’t expected Saturday.
Yet the first- and second-team offenses rolled up 746 total yards, though Fedora admitted the defenses were held back with just a few basic blitz packages installed.
“I liked the tempo we played with on offense,” Fedora said. “This is what I want our offenses to look like and this is the pace I want them to play with — this or even quicker.”
Martevious Young completed 28 of 43 passes for 384 yards and four touchdowns. Young started with the first-string in the absence of Davis.
He threw for scores of 37, 70 and 36 yards, showing the kind of arm strength that he used to lead the Eagles to a 4-2 record in six Conference USA games after taking over for Davis. But Fedora said Davis will remain atop the depth chart when the Golden Eagles start preseason practice in preparation for the Sept. 2 opener at South Carolina.
“The job is Austin’s until Martevious takes it from him,” Fedora said.
“The doctor’s tell me they are going to release Austin to go at full-speed on June 1, so we’ll see how both do in the fall.”
Whoever ends up in the backfield will be relying on a revamped offensive line that was among the team’s biggest questions entering spring practice.
Center Cameron Zipp, the lone returning offensive lineman, said he thinks the group will be ready.
“This spring has been huge for us,” Zipp said. “We’ve used it to get used to this fast-paced offense everyone saw today, and we’re going to bust our tails in the weight room this summer and bulk up.”