Southern Miss

Southern Miss continues struggles, falls at North Texas

Keon Howard
Keon Howard

The Southern Miss football team continued to stumble on the road Saturday night, falling 29-23 to North Texas.

The Golden Eagles (5-6, 3-4) have lost five of their last six games and will have to beat Conference USA West champion Louisiana Tech in Friday's regular season finale to earn bowl eligibility.

USM will be an underdog against Louisiana Tech as it looks to avoid its fourth losing season in the last five years.

Freshman Keon Howard again received the start at quarterback for USM with senior Nick Mullens not yet fully recovered from a concussion he suffered on Nov. 5 against Charlotte.

Howard, a Laurel native, finished 10-of-26 passing for 135 yards and three interceptions. He ran 12 times for 40 yards.

North Texas jumped out to a 20-0 lead in the second quarter, but Southern Miss responded with its own 23-0 run

The Golden Eagles took a 23-20 lead on a 25-yard field goal by Gulfport native Stephen Brauchle with 9:39 remaining.

North Texas answered on its following possession as Willy Ivery ran 11 yards for a touchdown to cap a six-play, 65-yard drive. The Mean Green led 27-23 with 7:34 left.

USM, which was backed up inside its own 10 at time, gave up a safety with 3:08 remaining in order to get better field position, but never really threatened to erase the 29-23 North Texas lead.

Howard was picked off by Nate Brooks at midfield with 1:10 remaining to put the game to rest.

North Texas (5-6, 3-4) moved within one win of reaching bowl eligibility. It travels to UTEP on Saturday in search of its sixth win.

The Southern Miss defense gave up a handful of big plays in the passing game in the first half. North Texas quarterback Alec Morris hit the USM secondary for completions of 32, 49, 55 and 35 yards in the first two quarters.

Morris, an Alabama transfer, finished 14 of 29 for 267 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.

USM gained a little life just before half when Allenzae Staggers hit Ito Smith for a 47-yard completion on a trick play, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by Smith two plays later with 25 seconds left before halftime.

North Texas led 20-7 at the break.

Smith ran 69 yards on the first snap of the second half and punched it in the end zone from 2 yards out three plays later to cut the North Texas lead to 20-13 at the 13:44 mark of the third quarter.

George Payne added a 16-yard touchdown run with 9:07 left in the third quarter to tie the game at 20-20.

Smith finished with 19 carries for 113 yards and two touchdowns, pushing his streak to 16 games of at least one touchdown scored. He also had three catches for 67 yards.

Ivery ran 18 times for 111 yards and a touchdown to lead North Texas.

USM put itself in a big hole for the second consecutive week after trailing 21-0 at Old Dominion last week in a 51-35 loss.

Annual USM Beach Bash is held in Long Beach as faithful look forward to new season