HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Southern Mississippi totaled 335 rushing yards on its way to a 52-6 win over Southeastern Louisiana University in nonconference football action Saturday night at M.M. Roberts Stadium.
USM (2-1) scored 38 unanswered points to break a close game open. Both of Southeastern’s (1-2) losses this season have come to Football Bowl Subdivision opponents.
“Southern Miss was really physical up front on both sides of the ball,” Southeastern coach Mike Lucas said in a university news release. “When you look at our height and weight and their height and weight, we were going to have a hard time running the football. We had some holes, but they closed up really quickly.”
Southeastern had 285 total yards and 19 first downs, and Simmie Yarborough led the Lion offense with seven catches for 81 yards.
Brian Young got the start at quarterback, completing 14 of 27 passes for 143 yards. Nathan Stanley connected on five of 13 pass attempts for 62 yards but also threw three interceptions – including two that were returned for touchdowns.
Southeastern was penalized 13 times for 90 yards.
USM’s offense was led by the running back tandem of Kendrick Hardy and Jamal Woodyard, both of whom scored rushing touchdowns for the Golden Eagles.
Hardy carried 18 times for 155 yards, while Woodyard totaled 99 yards on 15 carries.
USM quarterback Austin Davis went 16-for-23 for 143 yards and two touchdowns.
Southern Miss extended its 22-point halftime lead with a methodical drive that took over five minutes off the clock to open the half.
USM kicker Danny Hrapmann drilled a 49-yard field goal to push the lead to 31-6 with 9:48 left in the third quarter.
SLU’s Kory Theodore ran down a 49-yard strike from Young, as Southeastern marched down to the USM 8, but Seth Sebastian’s 25-yard field goal attempt hit off the left upright, keeping the Golden Eagles’ lead at 25.
Southern Miss came up empty when Hrapmann’s 46-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right.
After Southeastern was stopped on its next drive, USM put the game away with 13-play, 71-yard drive that lasted into the fourth quarter. Davis capped it with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Collin Jarbo to put USM up, 38-6 with 13:24 left.
Southern Miss added to the lead on a 15-yard touchdown run by Jeremy Hester that moved USM ahead, 45-6 with 6:54 left.
On Southeastern’s next offensive play, Octavius Thomas picked off Stanley and walked in for a 6-yard touchdown return to put USM up, 52-6.
After forcing Southeastern to punt on its opening drive, Southern Miss opened with a 10-play, 80-yard drive.
After a Lion pass interference penalty on third down extended the drive, Davis connected with a wide-open Woodyard for a 23-yard touchdown and a 7-0 USM lead with 8:47 remaining in the quarter.
After a three-and-out and a 20-yard punt by junior Beau Mothe set USM up with a short field, Southeastern’s defense stiffened and Hrapmann — a former Lion — missed a 44-yard field goal.
Southeastern drove into USM territory on its next drive but punted.
The Eagles used an 11-play, 89-yard drive that Hardy capped with a 5-yard scoring run to put USM up, 14-0 less than a minute into the second quarter.
The Lions were forced to punt again, and Mothe had his punt partially blocked. However, the punt bounced off a USM player and into the arms of SLU’s Michael Chaney.
Southeastern did not immediately make anything of the opportunity, but Mothe connected with junior C.J. Ogbuehi for a 29-yard catch and run on a fake punt.
The Lions converted two more fourth downs on a drive that culminated with a 32-yard field goal by Sebastian that pulled Southeastern within 14-3 with 8:20 remaining in the first half.
The Lions pulled closer after forcing the Golden Eagles to go three-and-out.
Stanley hit sophomore Jarrett Johnson on a 24-yard throw on a third-and-16 to key a 12-play, 71-yard scoring drive. Sebastian knocked in a 19-yard field goal to cut the USM lead to 14-6 with 2:58 left in the half.
USM retook the lead and the momentum with a quick three-play, 60-yard march. Woodyard ripped off a 25-yard touchdown run right up the middle to put the Golden Eagles up, 21-6, with just over two minutes left in the first half.
Southeastern marched into USM territory, but on the final play of the half, Stanley’s pass bounced off the hands of Theodore and into the hands of USM’s Korey Williams, who returned the pick 60 yards to take a 28-6 lead into the break.