Monday, December 19, 2016
Southern Mississippi: 2016 New Orleans Bowl Champions
NEW ORLEANS -- Allenzae Staggers set New Orleans Bowl records with 11 catches for 230 yards and also scored a touchdown to help Southern Mississippi beat Louisiana-Lafayette 28-21 on Saturday night.
Nick Mullens, the Southern Miss all-time leader in yards passing and passing touchdowns, finished his distinguished career by throwing for 346 yards and two TDs.
One of Mullens' TD tosses was a 6-yarder to running back Ito Smith, who also rushed for 138 yards and two scores.
However, Mullens' turnovers helped the Ragin' Cajuns keep the game competitive despite the Golden Eagles (7-6) outgaining ULL (6-7) 481 yards to 252.
Mullens' second-quarter fumble and fourth-quarter interception both led to Cajuns touchdowns, the latter on a short run by ULL quarterback Anthony Jennings that trimmed Southern Miss' lead to 28-21 with 5:10 to go.
ULL got the ball back once more, starting on its own 18-yard line with 2:02 to go, but Jennings' overthrew a fourth-down pass as he rolled right.
Jennings scored twice on runs for the Ragin' Cajuns, who often struggled to move the ball through the air. A transfer who once started for LSU, Jennings completed 8 of 20 passes for 95 yards. He was intercepted once -- by Tarvarius Moore on the Southern Miss goal line -- and sacked six times, including three times by Ja'Boore Pool.
The Cajuns' composure was tested early. Mullens completed his first three passes for 127 yards and a touchdown to Smith, who also rushed for the game's opening TD as the Golden Eagles took a 14-0 lead inside the first 8 minutes.
But ULL methodically pulled itself back into the game, starting when Jennings led a nine-play, 66-yard drive capped by his 4-yard TD to make it 14-7. In the second quarter, Tre'maine Lightfoot's sack and strip of Mullens was scooped and returned 15 yards by Otha Peters to the Southern Miss 29, setting up a tying 12-yard TD run by reserve QB Dion Ray, who periodically ran plays out of a "wildcat" formation.
TAKING THEIR TIME
As the first half ended, Mullens rushed the Southern Miss offense to the line of scrimmage to try to spike the ball and stop the clock so the Golden Eagles could try a 45-yard field goal. The clock read zero after his spike, but officials ordered 1 second put back on the clock. Louisiana-Lafayette then used both of its remaining timeouts in an effort to disrupt kicker Parker Shaunfield's rhythm. After the second timeout, officials decided to review the previous play and ruled that time had expired after all, ending the half in a 14-all tie.
Southern Miss: The first order of business is to find a replacement for Mullens, who leaves the Golden Eagles as the program's career leader in yards passing (11,994) and TD passes (87). Complicating that transition at QB is the departure of three-year starting center Cameron Tom and starting guards Oliver Bates and Brandon Farmer.
Louisiana-Lafayette: The Cajuns are expected to apply to the NCAA for another year of eligibility for Jennings, but prospects for approval appear slim. The next QB could come from the junior college ranks. The offense also loses Elijah McGuire, who ranks second all-time in rushing for ULL, and top receiver Al Riles.