Despite a Southern Miss comeback stemming in the second half, Troy was able to outlast the Golden Eagles 37-31. Southern Miss’ first loss of the season came on the heels of numerous penalties, losing in the time of possession battle and an uphill climb to get the victory.
“We deserved every bit of that loss,” said quarterback Nick Mullens. “There’s no other way around it.”
On the ensuing kickoff after USM scored, Isaiah Jones took the kickoff 15 yards to the USM 19, but fumbled as he came down. Troy took the momentum from the fumble recovery two plays later and scored its first of ten straight points.
Southern Miss had its hands full, following Troy’s gained confidence after its victory against No. 2 Clemson. The Trojans came into “The Rock” and set the tempo from a 17-7 run to start the game.
Nick Mullens threw 9-of-21 for 102 yards and an interception leading right into a Troy defender in the first half. The defense came back on the field in an effort to keep Southern Miss in the contest.
“Sometimes the offense has to get the defense out of a hole, and other times the defense has to get the offense out of a hole,” said defensive lineman Dylan Bradley. “It’s just one of those nights where the defense had to come through for the offense a couple of times.”
Being down 24-10 at one point was not ideal for Southern Miss in the first half. But, a crucial drive at the end of the second quarter brought Southern Miss back into the contest, heading into the intermission down by only 24-17.
“We probably didn’t execute at our highest level,” said Head Coach Jay Hopson. “We had some opportunities early. We certainly could never get into a rhythm.”
Southern Miss came out in the second half and scored on a 70-yard Ito Smith rush. That rush came on the heels of his 80-plus yard run from last week’s home game against Savannah State at home.
While USM had positive plays on the offensive side of the ball or a momentum-shifting play on defense, the penalties came back to bite the Golden Eagles. Throughout the game, Troy had ten penalties while Southern Miss had 13.
USM had its last opportunity of the game – with under two minutes left – down 37-31. The Golden Eagles drove down the field and got one last opportunity with three seconds left at the nine yard line.
“[We] Had to take it one play at a time,” Mullens said. “We had a chance at the end with the last play. A guy got underneath that route, I probably could’ve made a better throw. But, at that point you’re just trying to make the best play.”
Tyre’oune Holmes was the receiver in motion going across Mullens’ front side, and Mullens hiked the pass as time expired. With a comfortable pocket around him, Mullens threw the pass into near double coverage to Isaiah Jones who was not able to make a play on the catch.
“Seemed like everything that could go wrong, went wrong in the first half,” Hopson said. “As a football coach, [I] felt like with al the turnovers and miscues, kind of shot [us] in the foot.”
Southern Miss will go on the road next to face UT-El Paso on Sep. 24 at 7 p.m.