Capping off a rough day for Mississippi’s big three universities, Southern Miss dropped its conference opener against Arkansas State 44-37.
While the Southern Miss (1-3, 0-1 Sun Belt) offense looked the best it had in weeks, sacks, turnovers, and special teams mishaps ultimately caused the Golden Eagles to fall.
On the first series of the game, Southern Miss used a 12-play drive as All-Sun Belt running back Frank Gore, Jr. bullied himself into the end zone to go up 7-0. This would be the last time the Golden Eagles would lead as the Red Wolves quickly woke up.
Arkansas State (2-2, 1-0) quarterback Jaylen Raynor tossed a 33-yard touchdown within seven plays of the Red Wolves getting the ball to tie the game at 7-7.
The next two possessions for Southern Miss were not good so to speak with Billy Wiles throwing an interception and then Arkansas State blocking a punt, which led to a 10-point swing for the Red Wolves.
Southern Miss did not give up though as Wiles bounced back from the initial turnover to find Latreal Jones on a 28-yard touchdown early in the second quarter. Both teams then exchanged field goals, putting the score at 20-17 in favor of Arkansas State at the half.
Coming out of the locker room, the Red Wolves scored two straight touchdowns on a 60-yard pass from Raynor and then an eight-yard rush by the freshman quarterback. Following extra point conversions from both, Arkansas State doubled up their lead 34-17.
Just as they did in the first half, the Golden Eagles fought back to tie the ball game with 14 minutes remaining. Touchdowns came from running back Rodrigues Clark and wide receiver Jakarius Caston.
Unfortunately, this was the last hurrah for Southern Miss as the Red Wolves put together two more drives adding 10 points on a 62-yard touchdown run from Raynor and a chip shot field goal. The Golden Eagles cut the deficit to seven with a field goal, but with only 16 seconds left and an unsuccessful onside kick, it was too little too late.
Southern Miss put together a season-high 234 rushing yards as the defense registered a season-high four sacks. Wiles finished with 215 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, while Gore eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the first time since 2022.
The Golden Eagles will return home next Saturday to host Texas State at the M.M. Roberts Stadium.