Senior punter Tyler Sarrazin lined up to punt it back to the 49ers at the USM 12-yard line with 3:18 left in the third quarter. Sarrazin received the punt, but it was blocked high in the air and recovered by Ed Rolle in the end zone with no Golden Eagle around.
The play was called a touchdown, and USM found itself down 38 – 14 with an entire quarter left to play.
“We just got to play better in all stages of the game,” said Head Coach Jay Hopson. “Sometimes you just won’t come out and play the way you want to play. It’s just one of these days.”
Southern Miss (5-4, 3-2) hosted Charlotte (4-5, 3-2) amid a two- game homestand inside a five-game stretch. Charlotte, coming off of a 27-24 victory over Marshall and a bye week, was looking to get back to a .500 season.
“We’re still in this playoff run and we got to throw this one behind us,” Hopson said. “If we’re a good team, we’ll throw it behind us. We’ll take it one game at a time. We got to refocus in.”
USM came into the game allowing 322.5 yards of total offense to opponents. The 49ers amassed 439 total yards on the heels of Kalif Philips’ 183 yards on the ground.
The defense permitted at least 35 points in a contest for the fifth time this season. The defensive line was able to get to the Charlotte quarterbacks, counting for seven tackles for loss, and Xavier Thigpen had the two lone sacks for the Golden Eagles.
“Honestly, it’s really not about what they were doing, but what we were doing,” said junior defensive back Picasso Nelson, Jr. “Nobody who we play, it’s not about them – it’s about us. Whenever we play with passion, we play our best games. We just have to fix ourselves.”
The Golden Eagles allowed a 72-yard rush by Philips to start off Charlotte’s first drive of the game, putting Charlotte up 7 – 0 on USM. To end the first quarter, halfback Robert Washington went 58 yards untouched into the end zone to tie the game at 14-all.
“All we can do is try to battle back to try to get back in the game,” said safety D’Nerius Antoine. “All we can do is fight. Some people weren’t fitting their gaps.”
Just as quick as Southern Miss gathered momentum, Charlotte broke off another chunk play. Those plays went for 49, 72 and 58 yards on the day, accounting for 40 percent of the total Charlotte yardage.
“It’s 21 points,” Hopson said. “Those are huge plays. We can’t allow that to happen. We got to be solid, get them on the turf.”
The Golden Eagles offense finished with 498 yards of total offense, including 404 passing yards and 25 first downs.
Quarterback Nick Mullens experienced concussion-like symptoms toward the end of the third quarter and came out of the game completely starting in the fourth.
“They thought he needed to get checked out,” Hopson said. “Our doctors checked him out and said he was okay. For precaution-wise, they said they will hold him. We’re football coaches, not doctors.”
Backup Parker Adamson immediately drove USM down the field for an Ito Smith score from eight yards out. Adamson then brought it upon himself to take it in with a two-yard rush to get the Golden Eagles within two scores at 38-27.
“We gotta be behind our defense, and our defense has to be behind us,” said receiver Isaiah Jones. “If you feel like someone isn’t playing hard enough, we should go tell them. It was just a setback in the game today.”
Southern Miss will travel to Old Dominion Saturday in Norfolk, Va. to play the Monarchs at 2:30 p.m.