USM defeats Rice, 44-28
On Oct. 1, the Golden Eagles played Rice at “The Rock” for a 26-point win.
Senior quarterback Nick Mullens had a Southern Miss record-setting game, throwing for 591 yards combined with four touchdowns. His passes went to different receivers for chunk plays of more than 50 yards at a time.
“It was great to see [Mullens] open his arm and show what we’ve been waiting on,” said defensive lineman Dylan Bradley. “I told him before the game, ‘We follow you. We play off how you play.’”
Wide receiver Allenzae Staggers caught six balls for 292 yards putting him en route to a school record. Those numbers crack out to average 48.6 yards a catch.
“Just use my legs and just run – that’s all I’ve been taught,” Staggers said. “Next week, I’m trying to come and beat my own record.”
The defense may have been the most formidable unit out of all three phases. The defense pit the yardage at 346, including 166 yards through the air.
“It was a physical game and an exciting game for the offense and for [the defense],” Bradley said. “It just played out like how we expected to play out. But, 300- [plus] yards is a little too much for me.”
D’Nerius Antoine was all over the field, totaling 11 tackles and contributing in punt return coverage.
“He saved a lot of big plays from being touchdowns,” Bradley said. “He gave us opportunities for a stop and for the offense to get the ball back.”
The Golden Eagles forced zero turnovers but turned the ball over three times themselves.
Ten of the 14 total Rice drives went under 30 yards.
“I thought we did a good job of getting a lot of three and outs in the first half and getting the ball back,” said Head Coach Jay Hopson.
After settling for a field goal and punting twice in the first half, the Golden Eagles gained some momentum going in the mid-second quarter with the first touchdown of the game. The offense encapsulated 702 yards on the night – shattering the 615 yards they put up against Savannah State earlier this season.
Offensive Coordinator Shannon Dawson had wanted to move the ball around in future games, and he got the job done against Rice.
“Each player did their job and that’s what it’s all about,” Mullens said. “I like to think that if I play well, the team plays well. It definitely motivates me to not play for myself but play for my teammates.”