Southern Miss pulls within one win of bowl eligibility with a 44-10 win over Charlotte. Barring a complete collapse down the stretch, the Golden Eagles will be bowling in 2015.
Facing Charlotte of the first time in school history, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles (5-3, 2-1) took care of business in cruising to a 44-10 Conference USA win.
Nick Mullens threw for over 250 yards and Jalen Richard broke the century mark rushing in the blowout win. This win puts Southern Miss one win away from achieving bowl eligibility for the first time since the 2011 season.
Charlotte struck first in the game, following a defensive stand inside their 35-yard line. The 49ers went on a 10-play, 59-yard drive that stalled at the Golden Eagles seven-yard line. A 25-yard field goal by Blake Brewer gave Charlotte a 3-0 lead.
Three offensive plays later, Southern Miss took the lead for good with a 69-yard Nick Mullens to Michael Thomas touchdown pass. A successful PAT gave Southern Miss a 7-3 lead. After holding Charlotte to a three and out, Southern Miss struck again, this time on a Stephen Brauchle 38-yard field goal to extend the lead to 10-3.
The Golden Eagles scored again midway through the second quarter with Mullens finding tight end Taylor Marini for a nine-yard touchdown strike, the first of Marini’s career. The Pat was missed, giving Southern Miss a 16-3 lead.
After holding Charlotte to a punt, return man Korey Robertson fumbled the punt and gave the 49ers a shot at pulling within six points.Kalan Reed then came up with the play of the game, picking off Lee McNeill in the endzone. Nine plays later, the lead struck 20 with Robertson catching a four-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 23-3 at the half.
Both teams traded touchdowns on the opening drives of the second half, before Richard found the endzone on a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to give the Golden Eagles a 37-10 lead with 5:41 left in the third quarter.
An interception by Darian Yancey led the another Southern Miss score, this time a Richard rushing touchdown to give Southern Miss a 44-10 lead with 13:56 left in the game.
Both teams worked in several reserves in the final 13+ minutes of action as Southern Miss cruised to a 44-10 win.
In any game, there is good and bad to take away from the overall performance. Let’s take a look at how the Golden Eagles did versus Charlotte.
- Getting The Win: This is a game that the Golden Eagles expected to win heading into the season. Facing a FBS newbie is one of the breathers in an otherwise tricky schedule. The Golden Eagles struggled early, but played well overall in getting the blowout win. It wasn’t always pretty, but a win is a win.
- Special Teams Score: Jalen Richard capped off a very good versus Charlotte with a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Anytime the kickoff or punt team can add to the overall team tally, the chances of winning jump significantly.
- Creating Turnovers: The Golden Eagles did turn the ball over once, but Kalan Reed, Darian Yancey, and Cornell Armstrong picked off Charlotte passes in the win. The Reed interception came at a pivotal point in the game with Charlotte just receiving a gift fumble on a punt that had them 34 yards from paydirt with the game 16-3.
- Jalen Richard: The senior running back carried the ball for 114 yards and added a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Richard accounted for two of the five Southern Miss touchdowns on the day.
- Uneven Performance: The performance was very uneven, especially in the first half, as Charlotte just kept hanging around. Two third quarter touchdowns put the game out of reach at 38-10 in a much better second half showing. While this was a solid win, the overall performance was a bit shaky at times.
- Overall Special Teams: A fumbled punt and a missed PAT are things that will cause Southern Miss to lose to a quality team in Conference USA. Stephen Brauchle was 1-1 on field goal attempts, but cannot afford to miss PAT attempts. That was his second PAT miss of the season. Luckily for Southern Miss, those mistakes did not come back to hurt them.
Play Of The Game:
- With the score 16-3, Charlotte had the ball at the Southern Miss 34-yard line following a muffed punt. Kalan Reed intercepted the pass attempt by Lee McNeill in the endzone for a touchback. Nine plays later, Southern Miss took a 23-3 lead and the game was essentially over.
- The Golden Eagles get their first chance to claim bowl eligibility with a Halloween afternoon game versus the reeling UTEP Miners. Kickoff is set for 2:30 PM EST.