With the game on the line, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles knew exactly where to turn.
For four years now, Southern Miss has enjoyed the extraordinary talents of running back Frank Gore Jr. The son of the third-leading rusher in NFL history continues to pile amazing stat-lines. He was nearly a 1,400-yard rusher in 2022, shattering the record for most rushing yards in a bowl game by posting 329 to upend Rice in the LendingTree Bowl.
Trailing 31-28 in overtime against Louisiana, there was no question where the ball would wind up as Southern Miss attempted to pull off the upset. Backup true freshman quarterback Ethan Crawford handed the ball off to Gore from the 3-yard line and instantly put his hands in the air with sheer confidence that the walk-off touchdown was in the works. And it was. Gore punched in a 3-yard touchdown to secure a 34-31 victory over Louisiana under the Thursday night lights, securing the program’s 11th consecutive win over the Ragin’ Cajuns dating back to 1994.
Gore finished with 158 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries, additionally turning a screen pass into a touchdown in the first quarter. Thursday night was essentially a coronation for Gore’s greatness with the program, and the running back owns a monstrous stat-line of 536 rushing yards and six total touchdowns across the last three weeks. He posted 158 on Louisiana, 131 on ULM, and a season-high 247 on Appalachian State, registering at least one touchdown in all three contests.
Gore now has 970 rushing yards on the year with five outings of 120 or more yards. He is 12th in the FBS in rushing yards and fourth in the Sun Belt in rushing touchdowns. Gore is also climbing the ranks of Southern Miss’ all-time leaderboards, ranking third in rushing in program history. He only trails Damion Fletcher and Ito Smith, but passing either would this season would be a near-impossible feat.
Southern Miss’ 2023 season has not gone as planned. The Golden Eagles stumbled out to a 1-7 start, but everything seemed to turn the corner when they remained competitive in a 48-38 shootout loss to Appalachian State on Oct. 28. One week later, Southern Miss registered its first FBS victory of the year by routing ULM 24-7, and on Thursday, the team managed to win its second consecutive by knocking off a respectable Louisiana squad on the road. Thursday night marked the high-point of Southern Miss’ season, and Gore’s heroics were responsible for creating such a moment for the Golden Eagles.
Thanks to a COVID redshirt, Gore is only labeled a junior. The fourth-year running back could follow in his father’s footsteps and pursue the NFL after this season, but he still has two more opportunities to dazzle in Southern Miss colors. Matchups against Mississippi State and Troy loom on the schedule as Gore hunts his second consecutive 1,000-yard season.