The voice of and for USM students


The voice of and for USM students


The voice of and for USM students


Southern Miss gives Mississippi State all they can handle, but comes up just a few plays short

Jackson Kennedy

STARKVILLE – Southern Miss showed a lot of fight and played passionately in a contest that ultimately resulted in defeat at Mississippi State in a 41-20 decision.

The score does not show how close the game was. Mississippi State (5-6, 1-6 SEC) scored twice within the final seven minutes to pull away, but it was a one-score game with seven minutes left.

“I thought we played our absolute heart out,” Southern Miss head coach Will Hall said. “I thought we played hard, everybody in that locker room.”

Despite letting Mississippi State score 23 points unanswered after Southern Miss (3-8, 2-5 Sun Belt) took the early lead 7-0, the Golden Eagles battled back and brought the score to 26-20 with just over seven minutes to play.

Southern Miss opened the game with a fourth down stop by the defense followed by a five-play, 57-yard touchdown drive when USM quarterback Ethan Crawford found Frank Gore Jr for an eight-yard score to put USM on top 7-0.

The game marked Crawford’s first collegiate start and burned a redshirt opportunity for him because he has now played more than three games. It was a no-brainer for him to play today against the boys in maroon.

“It’s just the competitor in me that I want to play whenever I can, every Saturday, whenever the lights are on,” Crawford said. “Whenever they are the brightest, I want to be in the game. It was just one of those moments here today.”

Hall thought Crawford, who led USM’s game-winning drive at Louisiana last weekend, put his team in the best position to win.

“I thought he [Crawford] gave us our best chance to win,” Hall said. “He wanted to play, he gives us our best chance to win, and he loves this team. It was never even a question with him whether he was going to play.”

After Southern Miss went up 7-0, the Golden Eagle defense allowed them a chance to extend that lead even further. The Golden Eagles forced two punts by Mississippi State; both were three and outs and allowed USM to lead 7-0 for most of the first quarter.

However, the Golden Eagles could not get anything going on offense, which was a crucial moment in the game, trying to grab even more momentum than they already had. They went three and out, three and out, three and out, fumble, punt, turnover on downs, and punt to end the half.

That gave time for the Bulldogs to start inching their way into control of the game. They put together drives that ended in two field goals and a touchdown to take a 16-7 lead into halftime.

The offense woes for USM were exploited by Crawford leaving the game due to an injury on the team’s fumble late in the second quarter. Crawford went to the sidelines and had his right throwing arm looked at; he looked like he was in a lot of pain through each throw.

“He got hit in the elbow and was having trouble feeling,” Hall said. “He had a lot of numbness in it, his throwing elbow.”

Despite the team’s struggles on offense through the first half, they were only down nine points at halftime with everything in front of them.

Mississippi State started the third quarter with a five-play, 63-yard drive that ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Will Rodgers to Marks to extend the Bulldog lead to 23-7.

Crawford led Southern Miss back out onto the field to start the third quarter but did not look the same, and Hall resorted back to Billy Wiles.

After some back-and-forth punts, USM finally got some offense when Wiles found Caston on a 44-yard touchdown to bring the score to 23-13.

After an MSU field goal, Caston returned a kickoff 98 yards to the house to bring the score to 26-20 with 7:52 on the clock in the fourth quarter.

Caston had a day, having two catches for 88 yards and a touchdown, as well as the 98-yard kickoff touchdown run.

“At the end of the day it’s still football,” Caston said. “You still got to run your plays and do what coach tells you to do.”

Mississippi State got the ball back only up six and went three plays, 75-yards in 38 seconds, with a Pittman 59-yard touchdown run to go back up two scores 34-20.

The defense had played remarkably up until that point, and when they needed their defense the most, they got gashed. It was a disappointment in an otherwise very promising effort.

“They [the defense] played really good,” Hall said. “I was really happy with how we played except for that drive after we cut it to one score. We just didn’t fill up the zone well, it was a good job by Mississippi State because they locked the backside on that.”

With the score, the USM offense went into hurry mode, needing to score twice in under four minutes. That led to a pick-six thrown by Wiles to push the lead to 41-20.

It was a disappointing result for the Golden Eagles but a remarkable effort that showed the team’s heart and will in ways that fans have not seen all season.

“I thought we struck, I thought we played, I thought we didn’t panic,” Hall said.

There was some good news for Southern Miss: Frank Gore Jr once again eclipsed 1,000 yards on the season on the ground again this season with his day.

“It’s truly a blessing to be named as one of the top running backs in this university,” Gore Jr said. “That’s a blessing because I never looked this far and saw this.”

Gore did not say whether next week’s game versus Troy would be the last game he suits up in a Golden Eagle uniform; instead, he wants to focus on winning next week.

Southern Miss will look to end the season on a high note when they face Troy next week in the Rock at 11 a.m.

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