Southern Miss

Southern Miss aims for bowl eligibility vs. UTEP

TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD 
 Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens scrambles for a first down against UTSA on Oct. 17 in Hattiesburg.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens scrambles for a first down against UTSA on Oct. 17 in Hattiesburg. SUN HERALD

The Southern Miss football team moved within one victory of bowl eligibility with a 44-10 victory at Charlotte on Saturday.

What we learned: The Golden Eagles (5-3, 3-1) played their cleanest game since the 49-14 win over North Texas on Oct. 3. After turning it over nine times in the previous two games, USM had just one inconsequential muffed punt by Jalen Richard in the fourth quarter.

It was the lone mark on what was an outstanding day for Richard, who ran 13 times for 114 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown, and had a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

Richard has run 120 times for 681 yards and seven touchdowns this season as 1,000 yards seems a possibility with a strong close for the senior.

USM has the second-leading passer in Conference USA in quarterback Nick Mullens, who has completed 63.5 percent of his passes for 2,613 yards (fifth in the nation) for 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

The Eagles also feature two rushers in the top 10 in C-USA in Richard and and Smith (528 yards) and two players in C-USA's top 10 receiving yardage leaders - Michael Thomas with 36 catches for 653 yards and Casey Martin has 49 catches for 500 yards.

USM is averaging 505.8 yards a game on offense to rank second behind Western Kentucky (522.1) in C-USA.

What's next: USM hosts UTEP at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday in a game where the Golden Eagles should be a favorite.

The Miners (3-4, 1-2) ended a two-game losing streak with a 27-17 win over FAU on Saturday.

UTEP had its best player, junior running back Aaron Jones, go down to injury early in the season. Without Jones, UTEP is averaging just 138.7 yards a game on the ground after averaging 207.8 last year.

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