The return of Kwadra Griggs under center, along with Ito Smith’s 150 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, led the way for the Golden Eagles as they defeated Rice 43-34, handing the Owls their eighth straight loss.
Griggs totaled 331 yards through the air and tied his career high with three touchdowns. Griggs’ patience showed in the pocket, helping Southern Miss score on all eight of its offensive possessions. Junior Korey Roberson lead the way in receiving with a career-high 157 yards on eight catches and two touchdowns, one of which a 47-yarder that saw Robertson make three defenders miss to make his way to the end zone. Freshman Tim Jones added 56 yards receiving on two catches and the first score of his career on a 51-yard reception midway through the first quarter.
Another Golden Eagle with a Career-high on the day was Parker Shaunfield, who drilled a 51-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, pushing the lead to 22- 14. He now has made his last 12 attempts and went 3-3 on the day.
Rice was very much in the game, especially in the second half. Running Back Nahshon Ellerbe totaled four touchdowns and 153 yards on the ground to keep the Owls’ hopes alive. For every Owl touchdown, the Golden Eagles answered, never relinquishing the lead.
Ito Smith eclipsed 4,000 yards on the ground for his career, making him the 10th running back in FBS history with 4,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving. His 150-yard total also gave him his 21st career game with at least 100 yards on the ground.
Although the Southern Miss defensive front sacked Milko Smalls four times, penalties and 254 yards allowed on the ground are what kept Rice in the game. The Golden Eagles totaled 10 penalties for 86 yards on the day, three of which came on the same Rice drive, resulting in a touchdown for the Owls. Draper Riley was ejected for throwing a punch on that drive, as the defense showed some frustration in the second half. The 34 points were a season high for the Owls. Ito Smith’s rushing score with 2:55 left in the game put it away for the Golden Eagles, who then did not allow an answer.
The win snaps a two-game losing streak and makes Southern Miss Bowl-Eligible for the third- straight season, the second in a row under Head Coach Jay Hopson. Now sitting at 6-4 (4- 2, Conference USA) on the year, the Golden Eagles return to the Rock for Senior Day to face UNC-Charlotte this weekend at 2pm.