The path to a Conference USA West title got much tougher Saturday for the Southern Miss football team.
Texas-San Antonio thoroughly defeated USM 55-32 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, handing the Golden Eagles (4-2, 2-1) their first conference loss of the season. USM came up well short of its first 3-0 start in C-USA since 2004.
UTSA (2-3, 1-1) jumped out to a 21-0 lead midway through the first quarter and the USM defense had no answer for Roadrunners for much of the contest.
USM managed to cut the UTSA lead to 38-21 at halftime, but the offense failed to get the quick strike scores that it desperately needed in the second half.
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USM senior quarterback Nick Mullens left the field for a couple of series late in the third quarter when he injured his right thumb while taking a hit. Backup Parker Adamson replaced him for a couple of series before Mullens returned to the game with a heavily taped thumb.
Mullens finished 24-of-47 for 370 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
Mullens hit Chase Whitehead for a 33-yard touchdown pass with 6:47 remaining to cut the UTSA lead to 48-32.
Following the score, the USM defense got a quick stop and a punt return by D'Nerius Antoine set USM up at the UTSA 31. Three plays later, UTSA linebacker Josiah Tauaefa picked off Mullens just outside the end zone to end any attempt at a USM rally.
The Roadrunners gashed USM for 532 total yards, including several big plays.
UTSA quarterback Dalton Sturm was held to 66 yards on 6-of-22 passing last season in a 32-10 loss in Hattiesburg, but he looked like a different man on Saturday. The junior completed 10 of 12 passes for 193 yards and one touchdown, a 71-yard toss to Kerry Thomas Jr. on the third play of the game.
UTSA had two players with 100 yards rushing. Jalen Rhodes ran 14 times for 165 yards and three touchdowns. Jarveon Williams ran 15 times for 122 yards and two scores.
Much of UTSA's success in the ground game came directly up the middle. Thodes had an 80-yard touchdown run and Williams had a long run of 92 yards.
Junior Ito Smith led USM in rushing with 20 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown.
USM now has to prepare for its toughest contest of the season when it travels to LSU (3-2) for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff this upcoming Saturday in Baton Rouge.