A fall from grace: Golden Eagles 0-11
USM goes from undefeated to win-less at home
Published: Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 00:11
As UTEP lined up in the victory formation, it became official. Southern Miss would finish the regular season win-less at home for the first time since 1977. Just a mere season after being undefeated at M.M. Roberts Stadium, the Eagles continued a win-less campaign with a 34-33 loss to the UTEP Miners.
Southern Miss fell to 0-11 on the season and 0-7 in C-USA play, despite the best performance of the season from an offensive player. Quarterback Arsenio Favor made his second start of the season and went 16-22 for 374 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. The 374 yards through the air were a season-high for the Eagles and a career-high for Favor.
“The thing was, coming in, they were going to stack the box,” said Favor after the game. “Teams have been stacking the box, and finally I felt comfortable and the receivers felt comfortable with catching the passes so we just attacked.”
As per tradition, the final home game was dedicated to the seniors, a senior class that had only lost a total of two home games in their three previous seasons. Southern Miss responded by coming out on fire to start the game. Favor hit wide receiver Dominique Sullivan on a 41 yard touchdown pass on their opening drive of the game.
The Eagles and the Miners traded blows all game. Down 27-20 with six minutes left in the fourth quarter, Favor found wide receiver Quentin Pierce with no one around him for an 81-yard touchdown. The touchdown was redshirt senior Pierce’s first of the season, and it was a career-long for him and Favor.
That touchdown shifted the momentum towards the Southern Miss sideline, and it looked like it would be a memorable night for the seniors. That feeling didn’t last long. UTEP kick returner Autrey Golden took the ensuing kickoff 98 yards back for a touchdown to restore the Minor lead at 34-27.
Favor and the Eagles didn’t blink. Southern Miss drove the ball down the field and capped a seven play, 86 yard drive with the potential game-winning touchdown. After Favor scored on a two yard run, the coaching staff was faced with a big decision: kick the extra point and tie the game or go for two in hopes of ending the game with the first victory of the season.
Southern Miss went for two. Favor was intercepted by Demarcus Kizzie in the end zone to save the 34-33 lead for UTEP. The Eagles kicked the ball back to the Minors hoping for a stop and chance to win the game but UTEP was able to run out the final 2:44 of the game and leave Hattiesburg with the victory.
Blair Sullivan led the way for UTEP with 155 yards through the air and 98 yards rushing with a rushing touchdown. Running back Nathan Jeffery chipped in with 76 yards rushing and two touchdowns. The Minors were helped the most by special teams. UTEP racked up 222 return yards and a touchdown on kickoffs which set them up with good field position throughout the game.
“I feel like I left it all out there tonight. I played hard for my teammates and for my fellow seniors,” said Pierce in the post-game press conference. “We tried to come away with a win, but we came up short. I feel like everybody let it all out for the team. We have another game next week, and we are going to try to get a win.”