USM falls to MTSU, despite strong fourth quarter

The Southern Miss football team used a productive fourth quarter to remain in the game but came up short, losing 37-31 to Middle Tennessee State on the road.

Much like other games this season, the Golden Eagles failed to catch the ball in clutch situations early on, convert on earlier downs instead of having to convert in third-down situations, poor tackling on defense and missed opportunities made the difference in what could have been a victory for Southern Miss.

Golden Eagle quarterback Nick Mullens had a great day, throwing for 426 yards and three touchdowns that all came in the fourth quarter. He also threw one critical interception early on in the game. In the game, Mullens recorded his eighth time throwing for more than 200 yards and the 11th time of his career.

Michael Thomas put on a strong performance, recording his first 100-yard game of his career on nine receptions for 114 yards and two touchdowns and Marquise Ricard recorded three catches for 34 yards and one touchdown.

Although not having a touchdown, Casey Martin totaled 70 yards off eight receptions for the Golden Eagles in critical situations.

In terms of rushing, the Blue Raiders won this category, recording 237 yards to the Golden Eagles 111 yards. Before he left the game with an injury, MTSU running back Shane Tucker carried the ball five times for 60 yards and two touchdowns against a struggling USM run defense. Reggie Whatley also ran the ball 10 times for 100 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter, sealing the deal for the Blue Raiders.

For the Golden Eagles, George Payne led the team in rushing with 24 carries for 89 yard and one touchdown.

Statistically, Southern Miss (2-4) won the game in some categories, including first downs 30-22, third downs going 12-for-19. However, MTSU (4-2) had more total yards for the game with 583 in comparison to 527 by Southern Miss.

Not only did Southern Miss give up 583 yards of total offense, the team allowed the Blue Raiders offense to remain on the field in third down situations. MTSU went 6-for-12 on third downs. Blue Raiders quarterback Austin Grammer had a productive day, throwing 332 yards and two touchdowns.

On defense for the Golden Eagles, Trae Collins recovered his first fumble of his career with 11:27 left in the third quarter. Dasman McCullum recorded his third forced fumble of the season and third of his career and linebacker Brian Anderson had a team-high 11 tackles, tallying his second performance of tackles in double digits.

Southern Miss will have a week off and return to action on Oct. 18 on the road against North Texas. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.