Southern Miss slips past Louisiana Tech

Published 9:19 pm Saturday, November 17, 2018

HATTIESBURG (AP) — Southern Miss won another thriller over its next door neighbor in Conference USA and kept its bowl hopes alive.

Steven Anderson ran for two touchdowns, including the game-winner with six minutes left in the fourth quarter, to give Southern Miss a 21-20 victory over Louisiana Tech on Saturday.

It was the fourth consecutive win in the series for Southern Miss, and the second in a row decided by a single score.

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Southern Miss (5-5, 4-3 Conference USA) will head into its regular-season finale next Saturday at UTEP with a chance to finish with a winning record and achieve bowl eligibility.

“That was a hard-fought win. We knew it would be,” USM coach Jay Hopson said. “Our kids kept battling, and I couldn’t be prouder of these young men. They just kept clawing and scratching. We gave ourselves an opportunity to win in the fourth quarter, and we did. These kind of games are fun to win, but tough to lose.”

Bailey Hale kicked two field goals of 24 and 23 yards for Louisiana Tech (7-4, 5-2). The latter came with 13:40 left in the game and gave the Bulldogs a 20-14 lead.

After the kickoff, Southern Miss quarterback Jack Abraham put together an 85-yard drive capped by Anderson’s 6-yard scoring run to go ahead 21-20 with 6:02 remaining.

The Bulldogs punted from near midfield on their final drive and the Golden Eagles were able to run out the final 3:54. Abraham completed a pass to Tim Jones to convert a third-and-5 that allowed them to run out the clock.

“That play was one of ours this week, where we had to have it. We felt safe calling it, I had a lot of trust in Tim making that catch,” Abraham said.

Abraham completed 24 of 29 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown. Anderson ran for two touchdowns — but only 29 yards on a career-high 12 carries — and Quez Watkins caught nine passes for 110 yards. It was Watkins’ fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season.

Neil McLaurin caught a 49-yard touchdown pass from Abraham midway through the second quarter for a 14-7 lead. Louisiana Tech scored twice after that on a Kam McKnight TD run and on Hale’s 24-yard field goal to take a 17-14 edge into halftime.

J’Mar Smith was 27-of-43 passing for 243 yards and a touchdown for Louisiana Tech. Adrian Hardy caught 11 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown.

“I thought that we moved the ball with a little bit of success,” Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz said. “I thought the passing game contributed some good things but the negative in the passing game was the lack of the big play. We had a number of opportunities down the field but we just couldn’t take advantage of them. I thought our offense, defense and special teams all competed hard it’s just unfortunate that we came up a point short.”