Southern Miss’ season found a way to go from bad to worse after its 30-6 loss to Rice.
It was evident that the Golden Eagles lacked energy after interim coach Scotty Walden left last week for the head coaching job at Austin Peay. However, the frustrating season was capped off after losing quarterback Jack Abraham to an injury in the second quarter.
Along with Abraham, Southern Miss lost defensive linemen Tajh Sykes and was without backup quarterback Tate Whatley, offensive lineman Coker, center Trace Clopton and linebacker Swayze Bozeman.
“We had our opportunities early, and we never gained momentum,” interim coach Tim Billings said. “We went to our third-string quarterback, and it really limited what we could do. You have to give Rice credit. They played well. We are just not efficient enough yet, and we have to keep getting better.”
Southern Miss (1-5, 1-2) fell behind early on after failing to convert on fourth down and then later giving up an interception and a fumble in the first half. In addition, Southern Miss failed to stop Rice on third down as the Owls went 9-of-15 while at the same time, the Golden Eagles could not execute offensively on third down and finished 5-of-12.
“I really thought we played hard today, but at some point, in time, we have to execute,” Billings said. “We had three turnovers in the first, and two of them were on our end of the field. It gave (Rice) momentum. We gave a couple of big plays, defensively, in the first half.
After Rice (1-1, 1-0) took a 3-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, the Owls’ quarterback Mike Collins connects with wide receiver Austin Trammel for a 75-yard touchdown to extend its lead 10-0. On the ensuing kickoff, Southern Miss fumbled at its 25-yard line. On the next play, Collins threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jake Bailey.
Southern Miss finally got on the board in the second quarter, with kicker Biggs Bourgeois hitting a 45-yard field goal to cut the deficit 16-3. Towards the end of the quarter, Abraham went down after taking a hard hit on a quarterback run and fumbled. On Rice’s first play of the following offensive drive, Collins connected with Trammell again on a 13-yard touchdown to stay comfortably ahead 23-3.
Southern Miss managed to get on the board before the end of the second half after Rice fumbled on its 41-yard line. The Golden Eagles’ backup quarterback Trey Lowe III, a transfer from West Virginia, helped set up a 26-yard field goal to narrow the score to 23-6. Lowe finished the game 5-of-6 and passed for 57 yards.
“It was tough seeing Jack come out; it really was,” Lowe said. “I was just hoping to give the team a lift and see if we could come back and win, but of course, that didn’t happen. The team is hurt as well. I wish I could have done better just so we could become victorious.
In the fourth quarter, Trammell hauled in his third touchdown of the game on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Collins. Trammell finished the day with 143 yards and three touchdowns on seven catches, while Collins finished 12-of-17 and passed for 234 yards and four touchdowns.
Southern Miss totaled 269 yards of offense with Frank Gore leading the ground game with 74 yards on 11 carries. Abraham went 12-of-17 and threw for 112 yards and an interception.
Billings said he was confident in Abraham's return for next week’s game, but the team is still evaluating defensive lineman’s Tahj Sykes injury from earlier in the game.
“Jack, I saw him after, and I think he is going to be fine,” Billings said. “Tahj is on crutches. We will have to evaluate him (on Sunday), and then we will know more about that then.”
The Golden Eagles will host North Alabama next week on Nov. 7.