by Hunter Dawkins
Despite taking a seventeen point lead in the third quarter, the University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (0-2, 0-1 C-USA) could not get rid of the Louisiana Tech (1-0, 1-0) Bulldogs in their first Conference USA game of 2020 and their second consecutive home loss 31-30 at the M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg. With 14 seconds left in the game, the Bulldogs Quarterback Luke Anthony found receiver Griffin Hebert in the back of the end zone for his second touchdown.
In his first game as Head Coach, Scotty Walden learned a few lessons. “When you’re up 27-10, you have to expect to win the game,” said Walden. “I’m proud of the way we fought and handled the situation.”
In the Golden Eagles 52nd matchup with Bulldogs, the team looked different from the top, as it was the first game since former head coach Jay Hopson resigned after the 32-21 loss in one of the first college football games in America on September 3. Louisiana Tech was playing in their first contest of the season, as their first game against Baylor was cancelled due to the global pandemic scare for the start of college football and the Big 12 conference.
Starting with the ball, Southern Miss turned the ball over on downs after twelve plays giving the Bulldogs an opportunity to take a thirteen play drive where quarterback Aaron Allen found Hebert for his first touchdown with 1:49 at the end of the quarter.
The Golden Eagles immediately answered the call, marching down the field in twelve plays with redshirt senior Kevin Perkins ran through the line at free will from 2 yards out for his score. USM went for a two point conversion and failed; which wasn’t costly at the time, but would turn out to be. The score now was 7-6 with twelve minutes until the end of the half.
Following a chip shot field goal from Louisiana Tech, the Golden Eagles immediately scored on the first play from receiver and Mississippi Gulf Coast native Tim Jones on a 74 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jack Abraham. This was Jones’ longest reception during his career at USM and his fourth time with over 100 yards receiving.
After the Golden Eagles kicker Brooks Bourgeois converted the extra point with 5:44 left, the Eagles led 13-10. This score would stay the same through halftime.
The Golden Eagles opened the second half with two touchdown passes from Abraham to Tim Jones and Jason Brownlee, as Southern Miss built the lead to 27-10 following their “Big Nasty” defensive stops and an interception from linebacker Santrell Latham.
Jones left the game after his touchdown reception due to an injury where he was dominant on the field with eight receptions for 160 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bulldogs began their fight back at the end of the quarter, as Anthony threw two consecutive touchdown passes to cut the lead of USM to 27-24.
Louisiana Tech started the final quarter with possession, going three and out until USM put together a thirteen play drive finishing with Bourgeois kicking a 38 yard field goal. This built the lead of the Golden Eagles to 30-24 with 5:06 left in the game.
Unfortunately, this would be the last time USM had a reasonable shot to control the game.
It took 21 plays and a few controversial calls, but the Bulldogs eventually won on a touchdown call pass that was overturned by the call on the field of being out of bounds.
“We’re just excited about having the opportunity in this game that has such a great history and tradition to it,” said Louisiana Tech Head Football Coach Skip Holtz. For the second consecutive year, the Bulldogs beat USM, as they won 45-30 last year on October 19 in Ruston, LA.
The next game for the Bulldogs is at home in Ruston against Houston Baptist at 6pm on the 26th of September. For their third consecutive home game, Southern Miss will host Tulane in the “Battle for the Bell.”