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Golden Eagles go down in football finale

Joe Harper/
Southern Miss Golden Eagles running back USM’s Frank Gore Jr. (3) runs around Troy defenders.

The Southern Miss Golden Eagles football season recently came to an end after being defeated by the Troy Trojans 35-17.
It was a shaky start for both teams early in the first quarter as they both struggled to move the ball. But Troy capitalized off a 35-yard pass play to put them in Golden Eagle territory, where they marched down to the Southern Miss two-yard line. And a few plays later, Kimani Vidal ran for a 2-yard score with 5:30 left in the first quarter to give the Trojans the first lead of the game.
The Golden Eagles responded with Frank Gore Jr. breaking free for a 57-yard touchdown, giving them a temporary 10-7 lead. Yet, Troy quickly regained control with a five-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a 13-yard scoring pass from Watson to Lewis, putting the Trojans ahead 14-10 at halftime.
The Trojans further solidified their lead in the third quarter after Watson connected with Ethan Conner for a 2-yard score, extending their lead to 21-10 with 9:23 on the clock. Just four minutes later, Chris Rodgers returned a fumble 40 yards for a touchdown, increasing Troy’s lead to 28-10. The Trojans concluded their scoring with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Lewis to Clayton Ollendieck, ultimately securing a 35-17 victory over the Golden Eagles.
“It was a disappointing day,” USM head football coach Will Hall said. “Troy is a really good football team and I’ve got a lot of respect for Troy and Jon Sumrall, and what they have done over the last two years. I thought we played extremely hard. We had some blunders early defensively. I think we had ten men on the field on our first touchdown, which cannot happen. I thought Ethan [Crawford] kind of struggled a little bit early playing with the pain and then he figured it out late.”
While Crawford contributed 132 yards and a touchdown for the Eagles, Gore sprinted for 95 yards and finished the season with 1,131 yards rushing as it was the 13th-best rushing season in Golden Eagle history. He also became the third Southern Miss rusher to go over 4,000 career yards. After the game, he and other Golden Eagle seniors spoke about what USM means to them.
“Coming here, I was a good football player but needed to figure many things out in my life, and Coach Hall helped me with that a lot, as well as my other coaches,” Gore said. “I feel like they helped me become a man; this program means everything to me. I am just at a loss for words of how much I have grown as a person, teammate, and leader. I owe this program everything, and I am so thankful that I could come here all four years.”
His teammate, Jay Stanley echoed similar sentiments.
“I think I really revived my career here at Southern Miss,” Stanley said. “I came out of the portal in 2021 from Ole Miss, and I wanted to come here and prove myself again, prove the type of player I was, and I am so glad I had the opportunity here to do that.”
While Troy will go on to represent the West in the Sun Belt Championship game, Southern Miss will positively look towards the future.
“We’ll wake up tomorrow,” Hall said. “The sun’s coming up, and we’re going to work. We’re going to recruit right now. It doesn’t ever stop. I know it seems to everybody else like there’s these segments, but you never stop.”

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