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Southern Miss Bowl Eligible With 34-13 Win Over UTEP

With a win over UTEP, Southern Miss reached bowl eligibility and virtually assured themselves a postseason destination.

Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

In a game that saw many miscues, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles pulled away in the second half for a 34-13 win over the UTEP Miners.

With the win, Southern Miss guaranteed bowl eligibility for the first time in since the 2011 season. That made them the fourth team from Conference USA to get six wins, as WKU, Marshall, and Louisiana Tech also have six or more wins.

The Golden Eagles seemed to be off and running early versus the struggling Miners with a three and out on defense followed by a touchdown drive. The drive went 63 yards in eight plays, capped off by a Nick Mullens to Michael Thomas 11-yard pass and catch. The PAT made it 7-0 in favor of the Golden Eagles.

After a pair of punts, UTEP found some success versus the Southern Miss defense with a 17-play drive that took 8:49 seconds of game time. The defense came out with a nice stop, holding tight on a third and 11 to force a field goal attempt. The Jay Mattox 38-yards field goal was good, cutting the Southern Miss lead to 7-3.

The next two drives saw the Golden Eagles fail to convert a fourth and two at midfield and then fumble at the UTEP 28-yard line, giving the Miners ample opportunity to cut into the lead. The Miners came as close as the 32-yard line before being forced into a 50-yard field goal attempt. The kick was no good, keeping the score 7-3 in favor or Southern Miss.

Less than 35 seconds later, the Golden Eagles found the end zone on a nine-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Richard. The conversion attempt was no good, sending the game to halftime with Southern Miss leading 13-3.

Midway through the third quarter, Mullens tossed yard another touchdown pass, this time to DJ Thompson, to finish off a 93-yard drive. The Stephen Brauchle PAT extended the lead to 20-3.

Needing some sort of score to keep the game within reach, the Miners took the ball on an 11-play, 69-yard drive. Facing a third and 17 at the USM 19-yard line, Mack Leftwich completed a pass to Jeremiah Laufasa to the eight-yard line. A 26-yard field goal by Mattox cut the Southern Miss lead to 14 points at 20-6.

The Golden Eagles, never panicking, responded with a 9-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that saw Mullens find Thompson for the second touchdown. A successful PAT gave Southern Miss a 27-6 lead. Following the touchdown, the game was delayed due to inclement weather with the delay lasting well over an hour.

After giving up a touchdown drive to UTEP immediately following the delay, Southern Miss capped the night off with a fake field goal that saw Tyler Sarrazin carry the ball in for a touchdown.

That 34-13 score is how things ended up with Southern Miss getting to six wins with a defeat of UTEP.

With bowl eligibility in hand, the Golden Eagles get a bye week before traveling to Rice. A win versus Rice would all but guarantee no worse than a second place finish in the CUSA West Division.