Photos by: Tyron Dawson
Southern Miss Football fell to the University of Texas El-Paso 26-13 on its homecoming night. With the loss, the Golden Eagles fall to 1-5 on the season and 0-2 in the conference, while UTEP improves to the inverse of 5-1 and 2-0 in conference play.
The story of the night is visible in the rushing totals; UTEP had 255 rushing yards and Southern Miss had just 15 yards. The Miners’ defensive front bullied the Golden Eagles’ line and prevented the run game.
“It’s the same song, a new verse,” Head Coach Will Hall said. “It’s the same deal and that’s the way every game is going to be for us. We tell these kids that from here on out, we’re going to be in one-score games.”
UTEP received the opening kickoff and drove 11 plays and 62 yards right down the field after three third-down conversions, scoring the opening touchdown on a 17-yard rush by Ronald Awatt.
It would be the first time all season, outside of the Alabama game, where a team scored on the opening drive on the Southern Miss defense. The opening drive set the tone for the half, as the Miners accumulated 302 yards throughout the first two quarters, including 182 rushing yards.
However, in his first collegiate start, quarterback Jake Lange answered the UTEP score with a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Lange connected with Jason Brownlee on a ball that Brownlee leaped to and made a spectacular catch. The score tied the game and showed signs of momentum, but Southern Miss’ offense did not keep up the pace.
On the next drive, Lange tried to force the ball into double coverage, which was intercepted by Dennis Barnes, marking Jake Lange’s fourth interception of the year and his only in the game.
The second quarter began with 3 straight punts for Southern Miss, as the Miners held the Golden Eagles to a total of 32 yards in the period.
The Miners put together a solid drive and marched all the way to the five-yard line. However, the Nasty Bunch made a goal-line stand and forced UTEP into a field goal situation, which Miners’ kicker Gavin Baechle missed.
Southern Miss went three and out and punted the ball back to UTEP. The Miners then ran a reverse play, which Jacob Cowing took 53 yards for a UTEP touchdown, giving his team a 14-7 advantage at halftime.
Southern Miss got the ball to start the second half, got 2 first downs, but then again, punted. Punter Mason Hunt kicked a 60-yard boomer, which was downed at the UTEP one-yard line. Hunt continued his high-level play in the game as he punted six times for a 51.7-yard average.
Southern Miss gained momentum from the punt as Malik Shorts came up with an interception on a ball sent to the sideline.
“Rachuan, he had a big one-on-one by himself over there and Coach [Austin] Armstrong called the play before they even snapped the ball,” Shorts said. “The credit goes to the two of them. I was just able to be there and catch the ball.”
But just two plays later, Jake Lange was sacked, and he fumbled the ball, which Breon Hayward recovered for a touchdown. UTEP took a 21-7 lead, and Southern Miss was in desperation with an offense that just wasn’t clicking.
The next drive saw Southern Miss go right down the field on two 30 plus yard completions, and Southern Miss was inside the 5. Southern Miss ran it four times, including twice with backup quarterback Jack Walker, ending in no points and turning the ball over on downs.
“It was embarrassing, wasn’t it,” Hall said. “We put Walker in there because he gives us a little bit of a presence running and we’ve been good out of the [I formation] this year and we got a little bit on third down. We got to the one-inch line on fourth and didn’t get in.”
A field goal and safety for UTEP extended its lead to 26-7. Southern Miss managed to score before the end of the game with a three-yard touchdown pass from Jake Lange to Demarcus Jones.
For the second consecutive season, the Golden Eagles drop to a 1-5 start.
“As a team, we know we don’t like losing,” running back Frank Gore Jr. said. “We know we can’t get down on ourselves because that’s when it’s over. We’re going to keep rolling and keep going.”
Southern Miss (1-5, 0-2) will face UAB (4-2, 2-0) next Saturday at the Rock.