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The voice of and for USM students

SM2

The voice of and for USM students

SM2

Southern Miss Suffers Defeat to Arkansas State in Conference Opener: 44-37

Southern+Miss+Suffers+Defeat+to+Arkansas+State+in+Conference+Opener%3A+44-37
Jackson Kennedy

Southern Miss dropped its fourth straight conference opener and third straight under head coach Will Hall after losing to Arkansas State 44-37.

“All in all, they played better than us,” Hall said on his postgame radio show.

This was an offensive fire show for two offenses that rank near last place in all of the NCAA in yards per game. Both teams combined for 874 yards of total offense, with Southern Miss outgaining Arkansas State 449-425. Southern Miss trailed by as many as 17 points in the third quarter and, despite a late desperate rally, could not hold off Arkansas State’s offense.

On Southern Miss’s first drive, starting quarterback Billy Wiles drove the Golden Eagles 12 plays 87 yards in 5:42 to score the game’s opening touchdown. It was one of the best drives that Southern Miss has had on offense all season, and a two-yard TD rush by Frank Gore Jr. capped it.

A lot of the talk coming into the game was asking who the Arkansas State running back would be, and that was answered when freshman Jaylen Raynor led Arkansas State right down the field to respond to Southern Miss’s scoring drive with a scoring drive of their own to tie the game at seven a piece.

Southern Miss was set back deep after getting stuffed on the kick return, which felt like it happened a lot through the night, and Wiles got hit and picked off, setting up another Arkansas State touchdown.

They would never look back and never lost the lead after that.

Southern Miss went three and out, and Arkansas State blocked the punt to set up a field goal try, which made the score 17-7 in favor of the Red Wolves.

Hall even mentioned the kickoff returns in his postgame radio show, noting that they were tackled at the 15-yard line a couple of times, giving his offense a real disadvantage.

Wiles would lead Southern Miss back down the field on a desperately needed touchdown drive, and he delivered, finding Latreal Jones for a 28-yard touchdown catch to make the score 17-14 in favor of Arkansas State.

Both teams traded field goals to close the half, with Arkansas State leading 20-17.

Arkansas State got things going in the second half. Raynor scampered up the middle for a 62-yard touchdown to extend Arkansas State’s lead 27-17. After a Southern Miss punt, Raynor scrambled into the endzone, capping off another touchdown drive and blowing open the game by putting Arkansas State up 34-17.

Thankfully, Southern Miss did not give up. Otherwise, it would have been an even grimmer look than it is already.

Rodrigues Clark scored from 59 yards out on the ensuing possession, inching USM closer.

The defense got a three and out, which was one of their only ones of the day, to give USM back the ball.

Wiles led the team down the field to cut into the lead with an Andrew Stein 42-yard field goal, decreasing Arkansas State’s lead to 34-27.

The defense came up with another stop, and the rally was in full force. Wiles led Southern Miss down the field and found Jakarius Caston for a 22-yard touchdown to tie the game. That could have been sooner if a controversial fumble call had gone their way, but who knows if it would have mattered. Hall sure thought it would have mattered a lot.

“The fumble was big where they fumbled. They said it wasn’t enough information to overturn it. That would have given the ball back in scoring position. That was a big one.” Hall said on his radio show.

The momentum had utterly switched, and it felt like Southern Miss’s defense would impose its will on the freshman quarterback.

They did and forced a punt for Arkansas State. USM went three and out in what would be a crucial possession.

Arkansas State added a field goal on their next possession to take back the lead at 37-34. Southern Miss would go three and out on another crucial possession.

Arkansas State would go to all but ice the game on another Raynor rush, this time for 62 yards. He would finish the day with 97 yards and two touchdowns on 17 attempts.

Southern Miss managed a desperation field goal and doomed onside kick but did not convert.

Wiles finished the day with 20-36 215 yards and two touchdowns with a pair of interceptions. Gore Jr. had a breakout day with 20 carries, 132 yards, and a touchdown to show for it.

It was a disappointing loss for Hall, which jeopardized and set this program back from where they wanted to be this season.

They fall to 1-3 on the season and 0-1 in the Sun Belt.

Southern Miss (1-3) will host Texas State (3-1) next week at the Rock at 6 p.m.

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