Photo & Story courtesy of USM Athletics
De’Michael Harris ran for a career-high 121 yards and two touchdowns and Quez Watkins topped the 100-yard receiving mark for the fourth time this season as Southern Miss topped UTSA 36-17 Saturday evening at the Alamodome.
The Golden Eagles (7-3, 5-1 Conference USA) logged their third consecutive win, matching their longest streak since winning three in a row in November, 2017.
The win also moved Southern Miss into a first-place tie in C-USA’s West Division with Louisiana Tech (8-2, 5-1). The Bulldogs handed the Golden Eagles their lone conference loss, a 45-30 decision on Oct. 19, and would hold the tiebreaker should the teams remain tied in the standings.
That Tech game marked the last time Southern Miss lost, and Saturday, the Golden Eagles were able to pocket another win despite a handful of mistakes and miscues that cost them at the least, momentum, and at worst, points.
“It wasn’t our best performance, but we’ll take it,” Southern Miss coach Jay Hopson said. “We’ll take the win and we’re glad to get out here with it. This is good football team we beat (Saturday).”
Southern Miss never trailed Saturday, but UTSA (4-6, 3-3) twice tied the game in the first half and trailed by only six points with less than five minutes left in the third quarter.
The Golden Eagles outscored the Roadrunners 16-0 over the final 19 minutes, 54 seconds, to put up their most points on the road since a 467-41 win at Troy University on Sept. 14.
“San Antonio is an athletic team, and we knew it would be a dogfight,” Hopson said. “But offensively, defensively and on special teams, we made the plays we had to. It was a total team win, a big win.”
Southern Miss used big a quartet of big plays from Harris, Watkins and running back Kevin Perkins to first seize control of the game and then put UTSA away.
“De’Michael and Quez, they had some big plays and that’s what those guys can do,” Hopson said. “They’re explosive players, and they made explosive plays. Give them all the credit.”
The Golden Eagles took a 7-0 lead on a 2-yard scoring pass from Jack Abraham to Tim Jones. After being held out of the end zone through the first eight games, Jones has caught TD passes in each of his last two.
Saturday, he hauled in eight passes for 97 yards and a score.
UTSA wasted no time in tying the game. On the first play from scrimmage, Lowell Narcisse found Joshua Cephus with a 75-yard touchdown pass and the teams exited the first quarter tied 7-7.
Andrew Stein gave Southern Miss a 10-7 lead in the second quarter with a 27-yard field goal before UTSA’s Hunter Duplessis tied the game with a 25-yarder.
Enter De’Michael Harrris. The Roadrunners had limited Harris to 14 yards rushing and two catches for 7 yards through the first quarter-and-a-half.
Then, Harris found a crease in the middle, brought one defender to his knees with a shimmy to the right and split two more Roadrunners, blazing his way to a 56-yard touchdown and a 16-10 halftime lead.
It was Watkins’ turn early in the second half, turning a slant route into a 77-yard touchdown and a 23-10 lead. Watkins would finish with seven catches for 137 yards.
UTSA came up with another big play to pull back within a score when Narcisse found Carlos Strickland with a 51-yard touchdown.
But Harris ripped off a 33-yard run for a touchdown late in the third quarter and Perkins rambled 39 yards for a game-sealing score in the fourth quarter.
Southern Miss has had two games where a back has gone for 100 yards, and Harris has them both. Saturday, he logged a career-high 121 yards and two touchdowns 16 carries.
Perkins provided a complementary 65 yards and a score on just eight carries as the Golden Eagles netted 203 yards rushing. It marked the first 200-yard rushing game of the season and the first since gaining 252 yards in the 2018 regular-season finale against UTEP.
Southern Miss averaged a season-high 5.2 yards per carry.
The ground game provided a nice balance for a passing game that produced 290 yards. Abraham hit 22-of-34 passes with two touchdowns and an interception.
The Golden Eagles gave up some big plays through the air, but held the Roadrunners to 97 yards rushing. It marked the fifth time an opponent had run for less than 100 yards against Southern Miss.
The defense also came up with three takeaways and sacked Narcisse five times.
“At least we flushed him a lot,” Hopson said. “A lot of the stuff he was getting was out of the pocket. But he’s a good player and UTSA is a good team.”
Narcisse completed 21-of-40 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.
Zakhari Franklin caught seven passes for 97 yards, Strickland had five grabs for 79 yards and a touchdown and Cephus had three catches for 95 yards and a score.
“A win on the road, it’s never an easy feat,” Hopson said. “But we’ll count these chips up at the end of the year.”
“Now, we’ve just got to move on to the next one.”