Southern Miss

Thompson's career game highlights another nice day on offense for Southern Miss

Southern Miss receiver D. J. Thompson tight ropes the sideline as he is brought down by a UTEP defender on Oct. 31, 2015.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD Southern Miss receiver D. J. Thompson tight ropes the sideline as he is brought down by a UTEP defender on Oct. 31, 2015. SUN HERALD

HATTIESBURG -- Southern Miss wide receiver D.J. Thompson caught a career-high 10 passes, for 112 yards and two touchdowns, in the Golden Eagles' 34-13 victory over UTEP on Saturday.

He did it in what could kindly be called wet conditions, so wet that the lightning that came with it caused a one-hour, 27-minute delay in the Conference USA football game.

So getting into double figures in receptions was not an easy thing to do.

"To be honest, I caught one pass with my hands," Thompson said. "That was that first touchdown. Every other one was a body catch. No, it was two passes I caught with my hands, because I converted a first down one time. But I just made sure I held on to the ball.

"Because of my body size (6-foot-3, 200 pounds), I was able to get in front of those (defensive backs) and just shield them off and catch the ball. That was a big part of my game today, just being bigger than them."

Thompson wasn't the only receiver who played well.

Michael Thomas caught four passes for 84 yards and one touchdown, although he failed to add to his school-record five straight games with 100 yards of receptions.

Casey Martin caught five passes for 31 yards and running back Jalen Richard caught two passes for 23 yards and one TD.

"It's nice to be able to trust your playmakers," said Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens, who finished the rainy night completing 23 of 33 passes for 277 yards and four touchdowns. He was not intercepted.

About Thompson, Mullens said, "He has a big, long, athletic body. He can go up and make plays."

So could the running backs. Richard gained 127 yards on 20 carries and Ito Smith rushed nine times for 104 yards.

Final stats had USM with 523 total yards of offense, 277 passing and 246 rushing.

And many of those yards came on big plays. The Eagles had 13 plays of 15 or more yards. They converted 8 of 15 third downs.

"We're capable of converting because we've got good skill guys," USM coach Todd Monken said. "We've got running backs that can catch it and Nick will go through his progressions when people take someone away.

"Were we perfect? No. Did we have a good plan? Yes. But we've got good skill guys. We've got good coaches. We went out and got tight ends and we run the football better than ever. We knew we had to run the football and not turn it over and play off that and play off the play-action."

The Golden Eagles' first touchdown came on their first possession, when Mullens connected with Thomas for an 11-yard pass with 10:50 to play in the first quarter.

It was the fifth straight game that Thomas caught a TD pass.

In the drive, 11 was the magic number as Mullens also threw 11-yard completions to Daythan Davis and another to Casey Martin.

The air attack continued late in the second quarter. Mullens hit Thomas for 26 yards to the UTEP 4 and, after a delay of game penalty, connected with Richard for 9 yards and a touchdown with just 15 seconds left in the first half.

Richard set up the score with a 38-yard run. The PAT failed but USM led 13-3 at halftime.

Smith set up the next Southern Miss touchdown with a 36-yard run, then Mullens hit Thompson for 26 yards and then found him again for 27 yards and a touchdown. Stephen Brauchle's extra point made it 20-3 with 10:57 left in the third quarter.

A 31-yard run by Smith late in the third quarter set up a USM touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter. Mullens hit Thompson for 10 yards and a touchdown with 14:54 to go in the game, and right before a lightning delay.

"We don't worry about the scoreboard, we worry about executing plays," Thomas said. "You can tell the hard work is paying off."