Southern Miss holds on to defeat Alcorn State, 26-20.
Field goals and huge defensive plays in critical situations helped the Golden Eagles snap an 11-game home losing streak with a 26-20 victory over Alcorn State.
Southern Miss used a fast-pace offense for the first time this season, keeping the Braves on their heels on many occasions.
The Golden Eagles scored first in the game, following an Alcorn State fumble. Kicker Corey Acosta made a 50-yard field goal to give the Golden Eagles a 3-0 lead with 4:24 to play in the first quarter.
On the next drive, Southern Miss was forced to punt despite moving the ball very well down the field. However, the Golden Eagle defense stood tall. In the ensuing drive, USM quarterback Nick Mullens connected with Kyle Foster for 27 yards. After three Alcorn State penalties, Mullens found James Cox for a seven-yard touchdown pass to give the Golden Eagles a 10-0 advantage.
Then, the defense took the field again in dramatic fashion, forcing Braves quarterback John Gibbs into throwing an interception. The turnover sparked the Southern Miss offense. Right after Gibbs interception, Mullens connected with wide receiver Marquise Ricard for a 38-yard touchdown pass, increasing the lead to 17-0 for Southern Miss.
Following the Golden Eagles touchdown, The Braves fired back with a quick score of their own, going the entire field in just four plays on the ground. Gibbs Jr. made two huge runs for 32 yards and 33 yards, setting up a rushing touchdown for himself, cutting the Golden Eagles lead to 17-7 with 4:17 remaining in the first half.
Acosta converted on another field goal before halftime to give USM a 20-7 lead.
The third quarter was fairly quiet in terms of points on the scoreboard. Acosta added another field goal from 23 yards out, giving USM a 23-7 lead.
However, in the fourth quarter, things would get interesting. The Braves took the field with a sense or urgency and high spirit to comeback in the game. Alcorn State scored on its first possession of the quarter with Gibbs finding Casey Freeman for a four-yard touchdown pass. Instead of kicking the extra point, the Brave went for the two-point conversion and failed, putting the score at 23-13.
Then, the Golden Eagles responded, moving the ball down the field. However, the Braves kept them from getting in the endzone, allowing USM to only get a field goal out of the drive. The field goal put Southern miss up 26-13.
On the ensuing, just when things looked as if they were sewn up for USM, the Braves responded again with a touchdown, cutting the lead to 26-20. Although Southern Miss failed to move the ball on its next drive, the Golden Eagle defense stood tall with Jomez Applewhite making his first career interception to seal the deal for Southern Miss.
Ito Smith had a good performance on the ground, running for 118 yards on 32 carries.
Mullens threw for 208 yards and two touchdowns. He tied a career-high with 45 yards rushing. Casey Martin led all Southern Miss receivers with 56 yards.