Southern Miss earns bowl eligibility with win over UTEP

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The Golden Eagles celebrate

Southern Miss’ roller coaster of a regular season ended on a high note with a 39-7 road victory over the University of Texas-El Paso on Saturday. The win was a must for the Golden Eagles to keep their bowl hopes alive, as the team needed at least six regular-season wins to be eligible for a bowl bid.

Southern Miss scored 16 points in the opening quarter with scoring plays from all three units: offense, defense and special teams. Stepping in for redshirt senior Parker Shaunfield, sophomore kicker Briggs Bourgeois nailed a 39-yard field goal attempt to give the Golden Eagles an early lead.

The next score came on a 41-yard interception return by redshirt sophomore defensive back Rachuan Mitchell, who played extremely motivated in his return from being ejected for targeting in the previous game.

In the final moments of the quarter, redshirt freshman running back Steven Anderson punched the ball across the goal line for a one-yard touchdown run. Such a successful first quarter set the tone for the entire night, leading to a blowout win.

Following another 39-yard field goal from Bourgeois, redshirt sophomore quarterback Jack Abraham got in on the action with a 17-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver De’Michael Harris. Tate Whatley, the freshman backup quarterback who filled in for Abraham during his injury, used his wheels early in the fourth quarter to score on a 16-yard touchdown run.

Roughly five minutes later, freshman running back Trivenskey Mosley joined the party with a 24-yard touchdown run, the Golden Eagles’ sixth and final score of the night. The Miners ended the shutout with a 41-yard touchdown pass in the final seven seconds of regulation, but that did little to diminish the significance of the victory for Southern Miss.

Anderson, Mosley and Whatley combined for 245 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the contest. The team as a whole had a net of 252 yards rushing. Abraham also had an efficient game, completing 70 percent of his pass attempts for 92 yards, one touchdown and no turnovers. Junior defensive back Ky’el Hemby caught two interceptions to go along with Mitchell’s pick six. Even redshirt sophomore punter Zac Everett impressed, averaging 45 yards per punt with a long of 71 yards to keep the Miners backed up in negative field position.

Defensively, junior defensive back Ky’el Hemby caught two interceptions to go along with Mitchell’s pick six. Even redshirt sophomore punter Zac Everett impressed, averaging 45 yards per punt with a long of 71 yards to keep the Miners backed up in negative field position.

Despite an up-and-down season with a few heartbreaking losses, Southern Miss (6-5, 5-3 C-USA) won its last two games of the regular season to emerge above .500 and get the six wins necessary to become bowl-eligible. Although having six wins does not guarantee the team a bowl bid, impressive showings against other bowl-eligible teams such as Auburn, Louisiana Tech and UAB, along with a dominant last impression against UTEP should give Southern Miss fans a good reason to be hopeful that they may see their Golden Eagles take the gridiron one more time in 2018.