The Golden Eagles (7-4, 5-2 C-USA) fell to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (7-4, 5-2 C-USA) in a final home conference matchup 28-10.
“They got all the breaks today,” head coach Jay Hopson said. “We didn’t get very many. I want to give Western Kentucky credit they did what they had to do, but that was a close call ball game.”
Six minutes into the game, WKU scored with a 21-yard run by Jacquez Sloan. With four and a half minutes left in the first quarter, Jack Abraham sent a 68-yard pass to Tim Jones for the only Golden Eagle touchdown of the night. Andrew Stein’s field goal attempt was good.
WKU responded at the beginning of the second quarter with a 64-yard pass from Ty Storey to Jahcour Pearson. Another 21-yard pass from Storey at the five-minute mark gave the Hilltoppers the lead, which they held on to for the remainder of the game.
“We just didn’t execute,” DQ Thomas said. “It’s hard to play from behind the whole game. We’ve got to put ourselves in positions next week to do better than that.”
In the fourth quarter, WKU sacked Abraham and forced a fumble, which the Hilltoppers recovered for a touchdown. In a final attempt to get back on the board, Southern Miss sent in Stein for a 22-yard field goal.
After the sack, Abraham hobbled off the field, but he returned shortly after. Later in the fourth quarter, Abraham ran through a gap in the middle but stayed down after the play from what appeared to be a knee injury. Khalique Washington was also down after the play. Both players were helped off the field, and Tate Whatley entered the game in Abraham’s place.
“It doesn’t matter who is at the QB position. We have the utmost confidence in him,” De’Michael Harris said. “Either one of them can get us in the end zone, so it doesn’t matter. We’ve just got to play with what you’ve got.”
In addition to the loss of Abraham and Washington, key players such as Swayze Bozeman, Racheem Boothe and Jaylond Adams were also on the bench.
“That was a tough one,” Hopson said. “It’s football. That’s the thing about injuries. In football, [injury] is just common place. You know your football team is just never the same at the beginning of the season as it is at the end of the season. It’s just the next man up.”
Without Adams, the Golden Eagles had only 47-yards from three kickoff returns and was unable to return punts. Over the course of the game, Southern Miss had over 30 minutes of possession time and 388 total offense yards over 73 plays compared to WKU’s 29 minutes of possession and 365 yards over 65 plays.
Senior punter Zac Everett took the field a total of five times for 215 yards for the night, including his longest punt of 53-yards.
“Zac helped us out. He pinned them down there three or four times,” Hopson said. “I think he’s had some really good games lately. I’m proud of Zac because he definitely gave us a field position edge.”
The loss to WKU is untimely for Southern Miss. With a LA Tech loss paired with a Marshall loss, a spot in the Conference USA championship game is up for grabs.
“Anything can happen,” Thomas said. “We have to make sure going into next week that we take care of ourselves and take care of business on our end.”
Southern Miss will travel to Florida Atlantic for its final regular season game on Nov. 30. FAU is currently in first place in C-USA East with a 6-1 conference record. The Golden Eagles are 5-2 in the West, putting them in a three way tie with LA Tech and UAB.