Southern Miss (1-5, 1-2 Conference USA) failed to score a touchdown in its conference matchup against Rice University, ending up in a 30-6 blowout.
“I really thought we played hard today,” Interim Head Coach Tim Billings said. “But at some point and time, we’ve got to execute. We got behind. We had three turnovers in the first half and two of them were on our half of the field. That gave them momentum[,] and we gave up a couple of big plays defensively in the first half.”
The Golden Eagles once again failed to stop its opponents’ success in passing the ball, allowing Rice’s quarterback Mike Collins to throw four touchdowns. Collins finished with 233 yards, getting 12 completions for 17 attempts.
“We had a good [game plan] coming in, we just didn’t execute well enough,” Southern Miss linebacker Hayes Maples said. “That’s it, really.”
Southern Miss started the game successfully by moving the ball downfield, but could not score. On the first drive, the Golden Eagles drove into the redzone, but failed to convert on a fourth and two situation. Cornerback Miles McCord stopped another redzone drive by intercepting a pass from quarterback Jack Abraham.
Southern Miss’s defense made a goal line stop on the next drive and limited Rice to a field goal. However, as Southern Miss stalled on offense, the Owls continued to roll on.
At the beginning of the second quarter, Collins passed to wide receiver Austin Trammell, who broke past the Golden Eagles’ secondary for a 72-yard touchdown. The Owls recovered the kick-off and scored on its first play of the next drive with another touchdown pass from Collins to wide receiver Jake Bailey.
Southern Miss responded to its 16-0 deficit with a 45-yard field goal from kicker Briggs Bourgeois in the middle of the second quarter. However, on the next drive, Abraham fumbled and was injured in a scramble. Abraham did not return to the game and finished with 12 completions on 17 attempts for 112 yards. The fumble also set up another Rice touchdown, as Collins passed to Trammell for a 13-yard score.
Quarterback Trey Lowe III, a recent transfer from West Virginia, stepped in to make his debut as a Golden Eagle. After Rice fumbled a punt, Lowe led the offense down the field with three straight completions to set up a field goal before halftime. Southern Miss went into the locker room at halftime down 23-6.
Lowe described going on the field for the first time at Southern Miss.
“My teammates were hyped up for me and I was excited to be out there,” Lowe said. “I’ve been waiting [for] my opportunity[,] whenever it was going to come[,] and it just so happened to be today.”
Southern Miss prevented Rice from scoring in the third quarter, but could not get any points on the board, either. The Golden Eagles stopped the Owls on a fourth and one at the eight-yard line. On its next drive, linebacker Santrell Latham sacked Collins to force a punt.
“I really thought we challenged the guys and defensively, we finally started playing better in the second half and I was happy with that,” Billings said.
However, Southern Miss’s offense only accumulated 54 yards and passed the ball three times in the second half. Lowe finished his debut with five completions on six attempts for 57 yards.
With six minutes remaining, Trammell grabbed his third touchdown of the day with a 14-yard reception to put Rice up 30-6. Trammell finished with seven catches for 143 yards. He has earned five touchdowns through Rice’s first two games.
Rice continued to run out the clock in the fourth quarter with the services of running back Juma Otoviano. Otoviano finished the game with 111 rushing yards on 25 carries.
Wide receiver Tim Jones checked in with Southern Miss for the first time since his injury against Louisiana Tech. Jones finished with three catches for 33 yards, all of which came in the first half. Wide receiver Jason Brownlee remained at the top of his game, with five catches for 35 yards.
Maples describes what he believes the team can improve on for next week’s matchup.
“We’ve got a great team and we’ve got enough talent for anybody,” Maples said. “It’s just putting it all together, coming back to work every day and trying to get better every day throughout the season.”
Southern Miss will play next on Nov. 7 against North Alabama.