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USM opens conference play with win over UTEP

Photo and story courtesy of USM Athletics

Southern Miss did exactly what needed to be done Saturday evening in its Conference USA opener with UTEP at M.M. Roberts Stadium.

“Another hard-fought, Conference USA game,” Southern Miss coach Jay Hopson said. “Thought our guys played well and that we played fairly well in all three phases.”

Quarterback Jack Abraham guided a Golden Eagles’ offense that cracked the 500 yards total offense, while Southern Miss’ defense limited the Miners to less than 300 yards on the way to a 31-13 victory before a crowd of 23,337.

Abraham completed 19-of-238 passes for 351 yards and a season-high three touchdowns.

Abraham found De’Michael Harris out of the backfield with a feathery, 12-yard toss that turned into a 74-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead for the Golden Eagles (3-2, 1-0 C-USA).

After the defense halted UTEP, Jordan Mitchell came in from the left side to block Mitchell Crawford’s punt, with the ball rolling out of bounds at the Miners’ 2-yard line.

Two plays later, Abraham rolled left after a fake handoff, then pitched to Harris, who slipped into the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown run and a 14-0 Southern Miss lead less than six minutes into the game.

For Harris, it was his third touchdown in the past two games.

Abraham would later throw touchdown passes of 22 yards to Mitchell in the second quarter and 6 yards to Jaylond Adams.

Andrew Stein booted a 38-yard field goal to round out the Southern Miss scoring.

UTEP (1-3, 0-1) got field goals of 28 yards and 46 yards from Gavin Baechle before quarterback Kai Locksley popped a 63-yard run through the middle of the Southern Miss defense on the Miners’ first offensive snap of the second half.

Locksley, who netted a game-high 114 yards rushing, pulled UTEP within 24-13 just 1:05 into the third quarter.

But Abraham led Southern Miss on a 10-play, 92-yard drive that culminated in the scoring toss to Adams and shifted the momentum back to the Golden Eagles.

Those also turned out to be the final points of the gamer scored by either team.

But Southern Miss’ defense limited UTEP to 74 yards over the final quarter-and-a-half, including just 23 yards offense on 11 snaps in the fourth quarter.

Adams finished with a game-high five catches and s score. Mitchell had four catches for 47 yards and a touchdown.

Quez Watkins had two catches for 97 yards, including a 61-yard grab. Tim Jones had two catches for 29 yards, including a 29-yarder that set up Stein’s field goal on the last play of the first half.

Harris not only had two catches for 80 yards, he netted 62 yards and a touchdown. Kevin Perkins led the Golden Eagles with 65 yards rushing on 11 carries.

Abraham, who hit three of his first seven passes (42.9 percent), finished by completing 16 of his last 21 (76.2 percent).

Southern Miss has an open week before welcoming North Texas to Hattiesburg at 6 p.m. on Oct. 4.

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