USM steams past Rice

Published 11:06 pm Saturday, November 14, 2015

HOUSTON (AP) — Nick Mullens tied a single-game program record before the first half was over with five touchdown passes, and Southern Miss beat Rice 65-10 on Saturday.

Mullens finished 23-of-31 for 386 yards, five TDs and no interceptions before giving way to backup Tyler Matthews when the score was 52-0 late in the in the third quarter.

It’s just the fourth time since 1951 that Southern Miss has scored at least 65 points in a game. The last time was in a 70-14 win over UAB in 2008.

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The Golden Eagles (7-3, 5-1 Conference USA) amassed a program-record 682 total yards to win their fourth straight. Regardless of outcomes next week, the Southern Miss-Louisiana Tech winner on Nov. 28 will determine the Conference USA West Division champion.

Southern Miss hosts Old Dominion next week and Louisiana Tech (7-3, 5-1) plays at UTEP. Louisiana Tech had a bye this week.

Michael Thomas had five catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns for Southern Miss. Ito Smith had six catches for 83 yards and two TDs.

Mullens’ 28-yard touchdown pass to Smith with 3:13 left in the first quarter put the Golden Eagles on the board and started them down the road to a blowout.

Holder Tyler Sarazin threw a shovel pass to Xavier Thigpen for a 6-yard touchdown on a fake field goal for USM’s second touchdown. Mullens then threw four touchdown passes in the last 7:34 of the half — including two 50-yarders to Thomas and another one to Smith — to make it 42-0 at halftime.

Jalen Richard’s 60-yard run on the opening drive of the second half stretched it to 49-0.

“We were playing pretty good defense until they scored the fake field goal,” Rice coach Davis Bailiff said. “That’s when you have to be your absolute best: when things go bad. We have to grow this football team up. We have to make plays when the opportunities are presented to us, and the opportunities were presented to us and we’re not (making plays).”

Rice (4-6, 2-4) avoided a shutout in the fourth quarter with Hayden Tobola’s field goal and Driphus Jackson’s 20-yard TD pass to Nate German.

The Owls gained 56 yards on 33 plays in the first half. They finished with 214 yards in the game. Southern Miss registered six sacks.

“That was a tough loss. It was embarrassing,” Bailiff said. “You never want to play that way. As hard as we work on eliminating mistakes, doing the little things right and cutting out the penalties and to go out there and have penalties again and to have the amount of drops and missed tackles … I’ll be the only one here tonight. I’ve asked the team to go home. We need to get this fixed, and they need to go home.”