Southern Miss loses heartbreaker to UTSA

NCAA Football: Southern Mississippi at Texas-San Antonio
Southern Miss Golden Eagles quarterback Nick Mullens looks to throw against the UTSA Roadrunners during the first half at the Alamodome. Soobum Im/USA TODAY Sports

Southern Miss looked like they were going to fly back to Hattiesburg celebrating a victory, until UTSA kicker, Sean Ianno, kicked a field goal from 38 yards out with seven seconds left on the clock to give UTSA the 12-10 victory. Ianno finished 4-4 for the night, scoring all of UTSA’s points in the Thursday night match-up.

With Nick Mullens as starting QB for the first time since the La. Tech game, the Southern Miss offense started the game smoothly. Mullens’ right foot did not seem to bother him as he completed three of his first seven passes on the first drive. The first drive was the only good offensive drive for the Golden Eagles in the first half, and it ended with an Ito Smith fumble on UTSA’s
11-yard line.

Dasman McCullum made his first career interception on the Roadrunners’ opening possession to give Southern Miss the ball right back. McCullum’s interception was the first interception for the Golden Eagles defense in six games.

However, Mullens threw an interception trying to get the ball down the field to Markese Triplett. Southern Miss struggled to get anything going, and their remaining drives of the first half all ended with punts.

“We didn’t run the ball very well, so we were behind the sticks,” said USM head coach Todd Monken. “Too many loss-yardage plays. Nick (Mullens) was probably a little rusty. We were just off by a few plays.”

Following a scoreless first quarter, UTSA was able to get on the board first with a 41-yard field goal with just over 10 minutes to play in the second quarter. Both offenses did not find much room to work with as every drive ended in punts, until Ianno connected on a 28-yard field goal with one minute left in the first half to give UTSA a 6-0 halftime lead.

UTSA received the ball to begin the second half and drove the ball into the red zone, but the Golden Eagles defense kept the Roadrunners out of the end zone and Ianno was called on the field for a 35-yard field goal. The kick was good and UTSA extended their lead to 9-0.
Feeling pressure to score, down 9-0, Southern Miss finally put points on the board with their first drive of the fourth quarter. The Golden Eagles drove the ball down to the UTSA 19-yard line, and Corey Acosta put the ball right down the middle of the uprights from 36 yards out, cutting the deficit to six.

Southern Miss’ defense played well on the night and kept the Golden Eagles in this game late, forcing two straight three-and-outs.

Following the second three-and-out, Mullens completed all but one pass on a five-play, 87-yard drive that took a total of 1:21. The drive ended with the only touchdown of the night when Mullens found Triplett streaking for a 22-yard touchdown.

The touchdown put USM up 10-9 with just under eight minutes to play. The game came down to the Roadrunners’ offense against the Golden Eagles’ defense.

On UTSA’s final drive, USM committed two penalties that kept the drive alive and set Ianno up for a 38-yard, game-winning field goal with seven seconds left.

“We got behind, obviously in tonight’s game,” said UTSA head coach Larry Coker. “I was just hoping where we’d get in a situation where Sean (Ianno) would have a chance to win the game with a kick. That was his fifth game-winning kick.”

On the ensuing kickoff, Duke Wheeler fumbled and UTSA recovered to get their third win of the season. Mullens finished the game with 257 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Ito Smith led the Southern Miss back field with 14 carries for 40 yards.

Michael Thomas led all receivers with five catches for 80 yards. Triplett finished with four catches, 68 yards and a touchdown, his first of the season.

Southern Miss fell to 3-8 after the loss and will finish the season off at home against UAB Nov. 29 at 2:30 p.m.