Southern Mississippi’s passing numbers lit up like a computer game during Saturday night’s 44-28 Conference USA football victory over the Rice Owls.
Senior quarterback Nick Mullens passed for 591 yards, and 292 of them went to junior wide receiver Allenzae Staggers. Both numbers were school records.
Staggers finished the game, which gave the Golden Eagles a 4-1 overall record and a 2-0 Conference USA mark, with six receptions and three touchdowns. The three TDs came on his first three catches.
“He got into one-on-one situations and made them pay,” Southern Miss coach Jay Hopson said of the transfer from East Mississippi Community College. “Allenzae is a talented athlete.”
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Staggers’ first catch was for 75 yards and gave USM a 10-7 lead with 8:52 to play in the second quarter.
His second reception was for 81 yards and gave USM a 20-7 lead with 14:09 to play in the third quarter.
His third catch was for 93 yards and have USM a 27-14 lead with 9:46 to play in the third quarter.
“I just beat my defender, just outran them,” Staggers said. “I was just trying to get open. Just used my legs and running.
“After the second (touchdown), my teammates said, ‘You got another one in you. You can do it. Just make it happen.”
Staggers also caught passes for 19, 8 and 16 yards.
“I look up and the ball is in the air,” Staggers said. “It was crazy.”
Not only did he catch those long passes from Mullens, he raced downfield each time, with defensive backs never catching up to Staggers.
“That’s something I do on Madden,” Southern Miss defensive tackle Dylan Bradley said about the big numbers.
Before Saturday night, Staggers had caught 11 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns. A 16.2-yard average per catch. A 44.5-yard average per game.
Now, Staggers has caught 17 passes for 470 yards. A 27.6-yard average per catch. A 94-yard average per game.
“I wasn’t focused on how many yards,” the 6-foot-1, 190-pound receiver said. “Just keep playing.”
He heard he had set a new school record after the game. His reaction? “Wow!”
The previous Southern Miss receiving record for most yards in a game was set by Kendrick Lee against Houston in 1996. Lee caught 10 passes worth 260 yards.
Mullens said that Staggers’ big numbers didn’t surprise him.
“I knew all along he had a good chance to be a great player,” Mullens said.
“He has a toughness about him. He’s not scared of anybody.”
Hopson had mixed reviews about his offense and defense after Saturday’s game, but one thing he really liked was the passing combination of Mullens and Staggers.
“It was nice to see,” Hopson said. “If you wear the black and gold, that was really nice to see.”