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Valiant effort falls short for Southern Miss in thrilling home opener

Southern Miss running back Frank Gore Jr. dives into the endzone for a touchdown

The highly anticipated battle between two Mississippi-made head coaches was one that brought excitement both to fans and spectators as the Liberty Flames outlasted Southern Miss in four overtimes by a score of 29-27.

The Golden Eagles struggled to get much going offensively in the first half as quarterback Ty Keyes threw two interceptions before an injury would inevitably take him out of the game. An early second-quarter field goal knocked in by Briggs Bourgeois would be the Southern Miss’s only points in the first half.

After losing Keyes, USM head coach Will Hall turned to running back Frank Gore Jr. to take over as the Golden Eagles’ primary signal caller. Gore’s athleticism and ability to move the ball down the field proved to be an effective bandaid to temporarily remedy a suboptimal quarterback situation. The sophomore running back turned quarterback would proceed to rip a 46-yard run for a touchdown early in the second half of the game.

While the Golden Eagles continued to face adversity offensively by giving up five turnovers, the defense stepped up to the plate and forced a few turnovers of their own. An early fourth-quarter pick six from defensive back Eric Scott Jr. gave Southern Miss a 17-10 lead at a time where a stagnant offense was unable to put points on the board.

A series of touchdowns from both teams resulted in a 24-24 tie heading into overtime. Unfortunately for the Golden Eagles, an impressive 53-yard field goal knocked in by Briggs Bourgeois in the second overtime to tie the game was not enough to will USM to victory. Southern Miss alumnus Hugh Freeze would inevitably get the best of his alma mater to kick off the season.

Notable performances from Southern Miss players were Frank Gore Jr. leading the offense with 178 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries as well as Eric Scott Junior with the aforementioned 22-yard interception returned for a touchdown.

The Golden Eagles will face the Miami Hurricanes for the first time in program history on the road next Saturday at 11 a.m. CT.

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