Fighting back from a 22-0 halftime deficit, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles fought back to within eight points on two occasions before falling 36-28 to the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Success in the red zone was the name of the game with Southern Miss scoring on only four of their seven times inside the Nebraska 20-yard-line. Two missed field goals and an unsuccessful fourth down conversion sealed the Golden Eagles’ fate.
Things started out poorly from the beginning for Southern Miss with a three-and-out, followed by a Nebraska touchdown. The Golden Eagles then fumbled the ball and gave up a Nebraska field goal to give the Cornhuskers a 10-0 lead.
Southern Miss had a chance one their next drive to cut the lead to seven after moving as close as the Nebraska six yard line. A 33-yard field goal attempt by Parker Shaunfield was no good, leaving the Golden Eagles down 10-0 after one quarter.
For the rest of the first half, Nebraska was completely dominant in scoring on the next four offensive drives. The only reason Southern Miss was even remotely in the game at halftime was due to a bend but don’t break defense that forced five first half field goals by the Cornhuskers. The Golden Eagles, even with 109 yards of offense in the first half, trailed only 22-0 at the half.
Needing the defense to step up once again early in the second half, safety D’Nerius Antione picked off a pass by Tommy Armstong Jr. and returned it inside the Cornhuskers five yard line. A penalty moved the ball to the 25. Two plays later, Ito Smith found paydirt from 17 yards out to open the scoring column for Southern Miss.
Again using a bend but don’t break attitude, the Golden Eagles forced Nebraska to attempt a 51-yard field goal that was no good. After missing another field goal, this time from 44 yards, the Golden Eagles’ defense again came up big with Antione forcing and recovering a fumble at the Nebraska 35-yard line.
The offense proceeded to waste another chance inside the red zone Jalen Richard getting stuffed up the middle on a fourth-and-one. Nebraska took advantage with an 11-play, 93-yard drive, capped by a touchdown pass to extend the lead to 29-7 heading to the fourth quarter.
Southern Miss went 78 yards in 1:47 to start the fourth quarter with Casey Martin catching a 21 yard touchdown pass to pull within 15 at 29-14. A surprise onside kick recovery followed, giving the ball to Southern Miss once again. This time, it took Southern Miss 1:06 to find Martin in the end zone once again to pull within eight at 29-21.
After stopping Nebraska for a three and out, Southern Miss tried trickery with a fake punt attempt that fell incomplete. Four plays later, the Cornhuskers were up 15 points again with a Armstrong Jr. touchdown run. Southern Miss drove downfield once again in a 7-play, 75-yard drive that cut the Nebraska lead to 36-28 with 6:55 left in the game.
The Cornhuskers drove downfield once again, but the Golden Eagles defense made one final stop in forcing a missed 24-yard field goal attempt.
Mullens hit Martin on two passes to get to the Nebraska 40-yard line before running out of time. With the Golden Eagles offense scrambling to the line of scrimmage, the clock hit zero and ended the chances of a Southern Miss upset.