Charlotte hands USM tough loss

Published 9:39 pm Saturday, November 5, 2016

HATTIESBURG (AP) — In his initial season at Southern Miss, nearly everything has been a first for head coach Jay Hopson.

That included Saturday, when he and the Golden Eagles took the first disappointing home loss of his regime and heard some boos from the home fans for the first time.

Charlotte scored 31 straight points, including 21 in the second quarter, to surge past Southern Miss 38-27 Saturday at M.M. Roberts Stadium.

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Southern Miss (5-4, 3-2 Conference USA) lost for the third time in four games, but for just the second time at home this season. After Charlotte scored two touchdowns in the last two minutes of the first half to take a 28-14 lead, the Golden Eagles went into the locker room to a round of boos from the home crowd.

“Not a very good day today. Give UNC Charlotte credit, they played a great game, made plays and came out with a W,” said Hopson, a Vicksburg native.

Hasaan Klugh was just 11-of-24 passing for 127 yards for Charlotte (4-5, 3-2), but he ran for a touchdown early in the game and and threw an 18-yard scoring pass to T.L. Ford II with 35 seconds left in the second quarter to put the 49ers in the driver’s seat.

Charlotte extended the lead with Blake Brewer’s 22-yard field goal and a blocked punt that was recovered in the end zone by Ed Rolle for a touchdown. The recovery gave Charlotte a 38-14 lead with 3:18 remaining in the third quarter.

Southern Miss got a couple of scores back in the fourth quarter, but only enough to make the score respectable. Ito Smith scored on an 8-yard run and backup quarterback Parker Adamson a 2-yard run with 4:56 left.

Smith finished with 69 rushing yards and Korey Robertson caught eight passes for 80 yards and a touchdown for Southern Miss.

USM quarterback Nick Mullens was 19-of-25 passing for 249 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted twice and sacked three times.

Mullens left the game with an injury in the second half and did not return. Hopson said it was a precautionary measure not to bring him back.

Adamson went 13-for-27 for 155 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions.

“We had some turnovers at critical situations. We dropped some balls again. Stuff that we have to sooner or later have to eliminate,” Hopson said. “It’s one of those deals where we have to start hauling it in. Had a little adversity in the third. I think Nick will be fine. We lost both of our quarterbacks there in the fourth. Certainly we’re not really deep there and that’s a tough situation for us to battle through.”

Kalif Phillips ran for 183 yards for Charlotte, while Robert Washington ran for 94 yards and a touchdown.

“Kalif was huge for us,” Charlotte coach Brad Lambert said. “I was really proud of our offensive line tonight. Southern Miss has a good run defense and for us to run for over 300 yards is a really big thing.”