The Southern Miss Golden Eagles are bowl eligible. Let that sink in for a minute. Bowl eligible for the first time since the 2011 season. With seven bowl tie-ins and a rabid fan base, I will guarantee right now that they will be bowling even if they do not win another game this season.
With Rice, Old Dominion, and Louisiana Tech left on the schedule, we should see more Southern Miss wins in 2015.
With that said, let's take a look at the good, bad, and ugly of a 34-13 win over UTEP that made the Golden Eagles eligible for the 2015 postseason.
- The Run Game: Jalen Richard (20/127/0TD) and Ito Smith (9/104/0TD) were able to find holes and run the ball at will versus the Miners. The duo combined for 231 yards on only 29 carries. Even Justice Hayes (5/15/0TD) was able to get back in the running game with five carries. As a whole, they ran for 246 yards on the day.
- Mullens To Thompson: Nick Mullens found D.J. Thompson ten times on the day for 112 yards and two touchdowns. The redshirt junior upped his totals to 39 catches for 560 yards and five touchdowns on the season, breaking his previous career high of 22 catches for 231 yards in 2014.
- Fake The Field Goal: Facing a fourth and three at the UTEP eight-yard line, the Golden Eagles went for the killshot with punter Tyler Sarrazin scoring his first career on a fake field goal. His eight-yard touchdown run was the first of his career and essentially put the game away at 34-13 with 6:45 left in the game.
- Defense Stepping Up: Led by Kalan Reed and D'Nerius Antoine's combined 17 tackles on the day, Southern Miss again put in a very good defensive effort. UTEP ended the day with 298 yards of total offense, including a paltry 3.2 yards per carry average.
- Return From Weather: Right after a touchdown that gave the Golden Eagles a 27-6 lead, the game was delayed by weather. After the delay of over an hour, UTEP immediately moved the ball at will. A nine-play, 57-yard touchdown drive dampened what was otherwise an excellent defensive performance.
- Finishing Early Drives: The offense got into UTEP territory twice in the second quarter, before seeing their drives end early. Once was a failed fourth down conversion at the UTEP 49 and the other was a fumble by Mullens inside the UTEP 40. Finish those drives and the game is out of reach before halftime.
- Weather: A long weather delay due to a thunderstorm saw many fans not get to celebrate bowl eligibility in the stadium. This is something completely out of the team's control, but nicer weather would have made for a better post game celebration.
Play of the Game
- Sarrazin's Touchdown: Field goal holder and starting punter Tyler Sarrazin took off through a huge hole on the right side of the line for a touchdown to give Southern Miss a 34-13 lead.
- The Golden Eagles have this week off before making the trip to Houston to face Rice. This game is a CUSA West Division eliminator and would put Southern Miss on pace to play for the division crown versus Louisiana Tech on November 28.