Southern Miss

Southern Miss held back late vs. Rice

Records are nice. Wins are better.

While many at the Southern Miss-Rice football game on Saturday figured quarterback Nick Mullens was close to a school record with his passing yardage and that receiver Allenzae Staggers was near a USM record for receiving yards, most of the guys on the field didn’t.

And they probably could have padded the stats, too, as Mullens, who finished with 591 yards, was near 600 and Staggers, who wound up with 292, was close to 300.

Instead, toward the end of the game, the Golden Eagles gave the football to running backs George Payne and Ito Smith five straight times, then Mullens took a knee three straight times to end the game.

“We’re not going to try to stick it in for a stat,” Southern Miss head coach Jay Hopson said Monday. “Maybe that’s the old school in me. When the game is over, you take the knee, you win the game. It’s about the team. It’s not about an extra yard here or there.

“We threw the ball how many times on Saturday, a ton, we had plenty of opportunities but to me, you’ve got to end the game with class. That’s just the reality of sportsmanship. “

Mullens’ 591 yards passing eclipsed the 461 set by Austin Davis against Rice in 2008. Davis, now with the Denver Broncos, threw 61 passes in that game. Mullens threw the ball 36 times Saturday against Rice, completing 25.

“I knew we had a few big plays but I had no idea that it was close to 600 yards,” Hopson said. “I was thinking it was in the mid-4s. After the game, somebody told me that was a new school record and I was like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that!’

“I was walking out of the dressing room and I said, ‘Nick, they just told me you threw for a school record.’ He just kind of shrugged his shoulders. It was like (mumble, mumble). That’s Nick. He’s not going to sit there and worry about those things. He’s a team guy and he’s always going to put the team first. That’s what you’ve got to love about him when you’re the coach, because it’s always about the team first.”

The team now has a 4-1 overall record, 2-0 in Conference USA, and will play an 11 a.m. Conference USA game at Texas-San Antonio on Saturday.

UTSA is 1-3 overall and 0-1 in C-USA, having lost 33-19 at Old Dominion last week.

Staggers, who caught six passes and scored three touchdowns against Rice, was named the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week.

Staggers became the first player in FBS to catch three touchdowns of 75 yards or more in the same game in 10 years.

Staggers also was named USM’s Offensive Player of the week. Dylan Bradley, who had 3.5 sacks, was named the USM Defensive Player of the Week. Bradley leads the conference with his 5.0 sacks.

Hopson said place-kicker Parker Shaunfield, who kicked three field goals and now has made all nine of his field goal attempts this season, and Walden Davis both had good games on special teams. Shaunfield is tied for first in the nation with his perfect field-goal percentage and is first in scoring in Conference USA with his 53 points.

USM’s Tyler Sarrazin is first in C-USA in punting average at 41.2.

Team-wise in Conference USA, Southern Miss is first in scoring offense (41.8 average), first in rushing offense (220.4 average), first in time of possession (32:06), first in scoring defense (21.4), first in pass defense (149.0), first in sacks (17) and first in total defense (272.6).

LSU game time: The Oct. 15 LSU-Southern Miss game will kick off at 6:30 p.m. in Baton Rouge on the SEC Network. The USM-LSU series is tied at 1-1 after the Golden Eagles won in Baton Rouge in 1994.

Game plan

Who: Southern Miss vs. UTSA

When: 11 a.m., Saturday

Where: Alamodome, San Antonio


Radio: 104.9-FM