Caption: Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens runs past the UAB defense as the Golden Eagles host their last home game of the season. USM loses 45-24. – Susan Broadbridge/The Student Printz
The Southern Miss Golden Eagles fell 45-24 to the UAB Blazers in a game that never felt all that close.
The Golden Eagle defense could not get stops consistently against the up-tempo UAB Blazer offense and it cost them a win Saturday.
“Well, it was not the way we wanted to end the season,” said head coach Todd Monken. “It’s just not the way you want to go out. We had a good two weeks leading up to this and I thought our guys were motivated.”
The smallest crowd in M.M. Roberts Stadium’s history, 17, 103, was on hand to send out the latest group of seniors that is highlighted by linebacker Alan Howze, Dasman McCullum and Emmanuel Johnson. Howze was injured twice in the first half and was unable to return to the game.
“I am appreciative to the seniors for the effort that they have put in the last couple of years,” Monken said. “It has been tough. It’s tough on everybody. You don’t work as hard as we work and put your name out there and play and not taste victory and not have it be hard, but our guys have done that.”
The Golden Eagle defense could not find an answer for UAB running back Jordan Howard, who rushed for 247 yards and a touchdown in the win. Howard also became the UAB single-season leading rusher during the game.
Howard’s hard running softened up the USM defense and allowed UAB quarterback Cody Clements to pass proficiently. Howard almost never went down on the first hit and would take several Golden Eagles to wrap him up.
“It is pretty obvious what happened,” Monken said. “(Howard) is a good running back. He is big, powerful and gets downhill. If you don’t make him go sideways they are hard to go down.”
Emmanuel Johnson finished with 12 tackles and said afterward it was missed assignments and missed tackles that led to Howard’s big night.
The offense, led by Nick Mullens, did not go without a fight however and scored almost step for step with the Blazers. Mullens finished 24-42 for 263 yards and a score.
After halftime, the offense made an adjustment and started to pick their spots underneath the coverage and it worked to great success.
However, miscommunication among the offensive line led to multiple sacks for UAB and knocked USM out of touchdown opportunities several times.
USM tried its best to cut the lead in the third, getting it to 28-10, but a back-breaking 99-yard kick off return would all but suck the wind out of USM.
Mullens’ lone touchdown came in the second half after being shut out in the first half, but that did not stop UAB from sacking him seven times.
Despite becoming bowl eligible with the win, it appears as if the UAB football program is about to be shut down permanently. UAB Athletic Director Brian Mackin is working on a separation agreement with the university and head coach Bill Clark is all but certain the program has seen its last days.
“I think it’s going to happen,” Clark said. “Unless something changes before the weekend ends, I think it’s over. I think the odds are very high it ends this week. To shut the doors? That’s sad.”
In true Southern Miss pride and passion, the senior class, including Markese Triplett and McCullum, did not go without a fight and even caused a scene in the third quarter when USM was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Despite being flagged, it showed the frustration and passion that the Golden Eagles played with. The senior class has passed on a valuable lesson to the younger players.
Mullens will return next season with two years under his belt and will hope to lead USM back to the bowl season in 2015. He will not be the only one as Jalen Richard will also return and looked to emerge as the most talented back USM has.