With a 39-7 win over UTEP, the Southern Miss football team now waits to see if a bowl bid will become a reality.
The Golden Eagles improved to 6-5 Saturday in El Paso to clinch bowl eligibility for the third consecutive season under head coach Jay Hopson and the fourth straight overall.
“That’s huge,” Hopson said. “To me, that’s always a goal. We want to be bowl eligible.”
USM probably won’t find out if it is bowl bound until after Middle Tennessee hosts UAB in the Dec. 1 Conference USA title game, but it will find out sooner if it receives a Bahamas Bowl invitation. The Bahamas Bowl takes place on Dec. 21.
C-USA features six bowl tie-ins and six conference teams have at least seven wins. The teams with seven victories will be given priority before the conference makes an effort to find a spot for USM.
USM’s chances of earning a bowl bid are still uncertain. The Eagles weren’t helped by Tulane’s 29-28 win over Navy on Saturday to improve to 6-6, filling one of the American Athletic Conference’s bowl tie-ins. USM did catch a break when SMU (5-7) fell 27-24 at Tulsa.
The most important outcome for USM on Saturday was FAU’s 27-24 loss to Charlotte, ending the Owls’ season at 5-7. That means that C-USA officials can focus solely on finding USM a bid.
There are 78 bowl bids to fill this season and there were 81 bowl-eligible teams at the end of Saturday night’s schedule. Virginia Tech (5-6) can become 82 next week when it hosts Marshall.
After struggling to consistently run the ball for much of the season, USM relied on the ground game Saturday. USM had 48 carries for 252 yards with freshman Trivenskey Mosley leading the way with 14 carries for 107 yards a touchdown. Redshirt freshman Steven Anderson had 19 carries for 92 yards and a touchdown.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Jack Abraham completed 14 of 20 passes for 92 yards and one touchdown.
Safety Ky’el Hemby had a pair of interceptions as the Golden Eagles forced four turnovers by the Miners. USM turned the four turnovers into 23 points.
“I thought they played fantastic, created turnovers,” Hopson said of his defense. “We were in prevent defense the only time we gave up any points. I thought the turnovers were critical, especially early in the first half. The guys played hard and I’m really proud of them.”
UTEP finished the season with a record of 1-11.