Southern Miss found themselves with their backs up against the wall, staring overtime in the face after Appalachian State’s Taylor Lamb hit Simms McElfresh for a 2-yard touchdown to make it 21-20, pending the extra point.
Extra points are more of a formality in today’s game, but that final extra point is the reason the Golden Eagles are now 2-2. Dasman McCullum came up huge for USM, blocking the extra point and sealing the win.
With the win, USM now has more wins this season than the last two season combined.
Although running back George Payne scored all three Golden Eagle touchdowns, two rushing and one receiving, the ground game continued to struggle. The Mountaineers held USM to just 61 yards rushing on 25 attempts, just a 2.4-yard average.
Appalachian State had much more success on the ground, running for 191 yards and a touchdown. Marcus Cox led the ground attack with 119 yards on 22 carries.
Quarterback Nick Mullens seemed to take a step back in his maturation, throwing two crucial interceptions to Joel Ross, but still made enough plays to keep USM in the game, particularly on the final drive for the offense.
He led a 65-yard scoring drive, capped off by a 31-yard touchdown pass to Payne, that gave the Golden Eagles the 21-14 lead with just over two minutes to play in the game. He completed 22-35 attempts for 268 yards and a touchdown.
Michael Thomas had his best game as a Golden Eagle, totaling 71 yards on four receptions. Markeese Triplett had the longest play of the day for USM with a 36-yard reception, but had the ball stripped away from him leading to a Mountaineers’ recovery. Triplett definitely has the talent to make explosive plays for the offense, but its mistakes like these that keep him from becoming a true threat.
Mountaineers’ quarterback Taylor Lamb was solid throughout, finishing with a combined 303 yards and two touchdowns. McElfresh was his leading receiver with 68 yards on seven receptions and the late touchdown. Malachi Jones was equally as good, totaling 61 yards on seven catches and a touchdown.
It was a long day for the Southern Miss defense as they allowed the Mountaineers to convert on 8-16 third down attempts and were 1-1 on fourth down. But the defense stepped up huge a few times as Picasso Nelson Jr. and Jomez Applewhite both came down with interceptions despite being on the field nearly twelve more minutes than the offense.
Southern Miss will begin their conference schedule Saturday when they host Rice (0-3, 0-1) at 6 p.m.