Facing a 31-21 deficit and Conference USA title hopes fading, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles came up with a dominant final 22 minutes in route to a 56-31 victory over the Old Dominion Monarchs.
With this win, Southern Miss has been guaranteed a shot at the CUSA West Division title in a season ending matchup versus Louisiana Tech. The winner of that game will represent the CUSA West Division versus either Western Kentucky or Marshall.
The Golden Eagles came out of the gates strong with an early six-play, 45-yard drive. Running back Jalen Richard capped off the drive with the first of his four rushing touchdowns, pounding it in from one yard to give Southern Miss a 7-0 lead.
Old Dominion quickly struck back with a defensive play. Terrell Reid sacked quarterback Nick Mullens and forced a fumble. That fumble was scooped up by Martez Simpson who took it in from 33 yards to tie the game at seven.
The Golden Eagles looked to again be in control with another touchdown drive, this time a four-play, 67-yard variety. Mullens found leading receiver Casey Martin for a 34-yard strike to pull the Golden Eagles ahead at 14-7.
After an injury to starter David Washington, backup Shuler Bentley helped the Monarchs again respond to the Southern Miss score. Bentley capped a ten play drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Zach Pascal to even things at 14.
Southern Miss had two scoring chances thwarted by the Monarchs defense with Fellonte Misher picking off Mullens, followed by Stephen Brauche missing a 35-yard field goal attempt with just over two minutes left in the first half.
With the game tied and time running down in the half, Bentley took the Monarchs on a 17-play, 77-yard drive that ended with Chris Kirtley drilling a 25-yard field go to give Old Dominion a 17-14 halftime lead.
Both offenses came out hot in the third quarter with Mullens finding deep threat Michael Thomas for a 24-yard touchdown, followed by Bentley connecting with Jonathan Duhart for an 11-yard touchdown to give Old Dominion a 24-14 lead.
The Monarchs then took advantage of a turnover on downs and went deep, connecting with Duhart for a 64-yard touchdown, his second of the day. The made PAT gave Old Dominion a surprising 31-21 lead.
From then on, it was as if the field was tilted in favor of Southern Miss. The offense pulled within four points on a 19-yard touchdown run by Ito Smith. One play later, Devonta Foster stipped Bentley of the ball with linebacker Anthony Swain recovering on the ODU 29.
Eight plays later, Southern Miss was in the lead via a Richard 10-yard touchdown run that made the score 35-31 in favor of the Golden Eagles.
Another quick turnover by Bentley, this time an interception by Naim Mustafaa, gave the offense a very short field. Richard added to his touchdown totals with a four-yard run to extend the lead to 42-31.
The Golden Eagles added two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter, a Mullens nine-yard run and a Richard 54-yard run to pull out to a 56-31 win.
Old Dominion finished their regular season with a visit from FAU, while Southern Miss travels to Ruston to face Louisiana Tech with a spot in the CUSA title game on the line.