Southern Miss showed heart in its fight with No. 15 ranked University of Texas at San Antonio, leading for the majority of the game but fell short in the end 27-17.
“This is really hard because we played our tails off…I think if Frank stays healthy, we have a chance to win and pull the greatest upset this season,” said Head Coach Will Hall.
Running back Frank Gore Jr started at quarterback, which marked the ninth different quarterback Southern Miss has played this season.
The Nasty Bunch defense got hot early, as they were a force in the game. On UTSA’s first drive of the game, Eric Scott intercepted Frank Harris to set Southern Miss up nicely in plus territory.
It was undeniable what the game plan was early on. Southern Miss was trying to keep the ball for as long as possible to keep the high-powered Roadrunner offense off the field. Southern Miss started with running Frank Gore Jr. right, running him left and running him up the middle.
“We made a collective effort to milk the clock and try and reduce the game,” said Hall. “We told our kids we are going to be in this game in the fourth quarter. Don’t let it catch you off guard. They weren’t surprised.”
With Southern Miss having the ball for so many minutes, it benefited the defense as they were well-rested in every possession. They held UTSA to just 164 yards in the first half.
However, Southern Miss’s penalties defined the game, continuously pushing the Golden Eagles back. Southern Miss tied a school record with 16 penalties.
“They had never played in an environment like this, they got better, but it is inexcusable,” said Hall.
UTSA scored first in the game, and on the ensuing kickoff, Cameron Harrell returned it 65 yards and set up Southern Miss in the red zone.
Gore capitalized on that momentum and scored a touchdown from nine yards out to take a 7-3 lead.
After Southern Miss’s defense forced another three and out, Southern Miss drove the ball again, kicked a field goal and went up 10-3. During the drive, Southern Miss brought in Antavious Willis to play at quarterback.
Willis became the tenth quarterback to take a snap this season for the Golden Eagles. Hall explained his decision to put other players in at quarterback instead of quarterbacks active on the roster.
“Well, they’ve had some opportunities to play quarterback this year, and it didn’t go so great. So, we decided to go in another direction of what we want to do,” Hall said.
UTSA responded on the next drive and scored as Frank Harris found Joshua Cephas for a 40-yard touchdown, which tied the game up at 10. Southern Miss led the time of possession at halftime 21:35-8:25.
UTSA, however, led in total yardage, 164-121. Southern Miss had thrown the ball just three times in the first half.
The second half started with another defensive play as Natrone Brooks intercepted Frank Harris and returned it 34 yards for a pick six.
It marked the second consecutive week the Nasty Bunch defense returned an interception for a touchdown. Southern Miss led 17-10, and all of San Antonio was on upset alert.
UTSA went straight down the field, but again the defense made a stop. They stuffed Harris on fourth and short, and the momentum was all in favor of Southern Miss.
However, the Roadrunners tied the game on the final play of the third quarter, as Harris found Leroy Watson for a 24-yard touchdown.
In the fourth quarter, UTSA capitalized on two critical turnovers by Antavious Willis and took a 27-17 lead. They would milk the clock after that.
Gore finished the day with 123 yards rushing and one touchdown. Southern Miss can look at all of the positives taken away from this game as they prepare for rival Louisiana Tech.
“They better get us now because there’s going to come a day where they can’t,” said Hall.
Southern Miss falls to 1-9 and 0-6 in conference play. They travel to Ruston, LA, to play Louisiana Tech Friday Nov. 19.