The Rice University football team started its game at Southern Mississippi as a unanimous underdog.
Twenty-one minutes later, the Owls found themselves in the lead, 7-3. Starting games slowly is somewhat of a habit for Southern Mis Scoring 30 or more points in the second half is also somewhat of a habit for the Golden Eagles as it was on Saturday in a 44-28 win.
After an early Southern Miss field goal, Rice moved the ball 56 yards in nine plays to take a 7-3 lead. It was Rice’s only lead of the night.
It lasted 11 seconds.
USM all conference quarterback Nick Mullens found talented receiver Allenzae Staggers open along the sideline and Staggers did the rest as he gathered in a perfect pass and sprinted 75 yards to the end zone.
The Golden Eagles had opportunities to open up a sizable lead in the first half but like so many times in previous games, they turned the ball over, fumbling it twice and being intercepted once.
Rice charged back to threaten USM’s delicate 13-7 lead, but Elijah Parker got to the Owl’s Tyler Stehling before he could launch a go-ahead touchdown pass.
With less than one minute gone in the second half, Mullens found Staggers again, this time for 81 yards and a 20-7 Southern Miss margin which survived the teams trading scores the rest of the way.
Southern Mississippi romped for 702 yards with most of it coming through the air. Mullens was incredible, going 25 of 36 for 591 yards and four touchdowns while Staggers caught three touchdown passes and 292 yards.
Rice had 180 yards on the ground and 166 through the air. Stehling was 14 of 18 for 100 yards and two touchdowns for Rice while sophomore running back Samuel Stewart rushed for 132 yards and two scores.
Rice was unable to come up with critical plays as it failed on 10 attempts to convert third downs.
Southern Miss improved to 4-1 and is atop Conference USA West with a 2-0 record. The Golden Eagles will play UTSA next Saturday. The Roadrunners were on a bye this week and are 1-3.
Rice is 0-5 and has a bye next week.