Southern Miss fends off feisty Rice

Published 7:21 pm Saturday, November 11, 2017

HOUSTON (AP) — Kwadra Griggs made a triumphant return to Southern Miss’ starting lineup, thanks to an assist from a guy that never left.

Griggs completed 22 of 31 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns, and senior running back Ito Smith ran for 150 yards and two scores to propel Southern Miss to a 43-34 victory over Rice on Saturday.

Smith now has 1,018 rushing yards this season and he also became the 10th player in FBS history to top 4,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in a career.
The win makes the Golden Eagles (6-4, 4-2 Conference USA) bowl eligible for a third straight season. Rice (1-9, 1-5) lost its eighth game in a row.

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Southern Miss had 10 penalties called for 86 yards. Many of those came on the defensive side of the ball.

“It’s great to be bowl eligible,” said Southern Miss head coach Jay Hopson, a Vicksburg native. “I’m so proud of our offense. Our offense played tremendously. Defensively, we played one of our worst games of the season. We’ve got to go back to the drawing board there.”

Griggs made his first start at quarterback since Sept. 30 — he had missed all or part of five games because of a hand injury — and had his best passing performance of the season. Griggs’ favorite target again was his former high school teammate, Korey Robertson. The two connected eight times for 159 yards and two touchdowns, allowing Robertson to set a new career high mark for receiving yardage in a game.

Southern Miss used two Parker Shaunfield field goals and a 51-yard scoring strike from Griggs to Tim Jones to take a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter.

But Rice continually fought back behind Nashon Ellerbe, who rushed for 153 yards and four touchdowns on 22 carries.

Twice Ellerbe had the Owls within two points on TD runs of 17 and 1 yards, but Southern Miss answered with Griggs’ 47-yard TD strike to Robertson and Smith’s 18-yard TD run with 2:55 to play to preserve the win.