USM spoils homecoming for Rice in blowout
Southern Miss (7-3, 5-1 Conference USA) throttled Rice during the Owls’ homecoming festivities, 65-10, for their fourth consecutive win.
Coming into the game, Rice had not lost a home game in November since 2007. But not only did they end that streak, the Golden Eagles set plenty of records during the onslaught.
Offensively, Southern Miss set a school record of 682 total yards of offense, as well as seven passing touchdowns as a team. The Golden Eagles’ 65 points was the most scored since scoring 70 against UAB in 2008.
Head coach Todd Monken dared the Owls to stop his squad early, going for it and converting on fourth- and-one from the Rice 47-yard line just four minutes into the game. Although that drive did not end in a touchdown, the Owls were put on notice.
Nick Mullens hit Ito Smith for the first score of the game on an impressive 28-yard catch-and-run late in the first quarter. Smith ran a wheel route out of the backfield and Mullens put the pass right on the money while the defender’s back was turned; then, Smith did the rest, making three defenders miss on his way to the end zone.
The Golden Eagles scored 35 points in the second quarter, a school-record, as Mullens connected with Mike Thomas for two of his three touchdowns in the quarter. Defensive end Xavier Thigpen got things going, catching a shovel pass from punter Tyler Sarrazin on a fake field goal before diving into the end zone.
Thomas’ two touchdowns were from 50 and 51 yards out, showcasing his immense talent that landed him on the Biletnik off Award Watch List. Mullens then hit D.J. Thompson on a skinny post from 13 yards out to put USM up 35-0 before Smith took a screen pass 16 yards for yet another touchdown.
Rice came out for this game seemingly ill-prepared. Numerous penalties and head-scratching coaching decisions led to the insurmountable lead that the Golden Eagles had in just the first half.
By halftime, the game was already out of hand. The Golden Eagles had 42 points and Mullens had already thrown for five touchdowns and 315 yards. Rice on the other hand, had 33 plays totaling just 56 yards. They also fumbled the ball six times, and lost it twice to the Golden Eagles. Rice did not even complete a pass until the 4:41 mark in the second quarter.
On the fourth play of the second half, Jalen Richard scored on a 60- yard run, breaking a few tackles and outrunning the Owl defense. With the score 49-0, Monken turned to his backups.
Tyler Matthews finished 4-of-5 for 109 yards and a 47-yard touchdown toss to Jarell Aaron midway through the fourth quarter. He also added a touchdown run on the ground in the third period. It was the first two touchdowns of his collegiate career.
The shutout ended when Rice recovered a Richard fumble, capitalizing with a field goal in the fourth quarter. The Owls added a late touchdown, but it had no impact.
Southern Miss held their fifth opponent in a row to under 300 total yards and notched six sacks.
Southern Miss’ success on the defensive front was warranted, seeing as Rice fielded their seventh different offensive line combination for the season.
Nick Mullens had another career game, finishing with 23-of-31 for 386 yards and five touchdowns. His efforts on the day moved him into third place all-time on the Southern Miss career passing yards list, trailing only Brett Favre and Austin Davis.
Southern Miss now ranks first in total offense and total defense in C-USA, ranking 11th and 31st nationally in those stats as well.
Southern Miss will come back to host Old Dominion Saturday in its last home game of the season. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m.