USM pulls away from UTSA, 36-17, to win 3rd straight game
SAN ANTONIO, Texas (WDAM) - For about a quarter-and-a-half Saturday evening at the Alamodome, the University of Texas-San Antonio had done a very nice job keeping the University of Southern Mississippi running back De’Michael Harris in check.
Harris had managed just 14 yards on seven carries and had two catches for 7 more yards at that point against the Roadrunners.
But then, with less than two minutes left in the first half, Harris did what Harris can do.
His streak of a 56-yard touchdown run broke a 10-10 tie, and USM used three more big offensive plays in the second half to pull away to a 36-17 Conference USA victory over the Roadrunners.
Quez Watkins had a 77-yard touchdown catch-and-run, Kevin Perkins scored on a rumbling 39-yard run and Harris added a 33-yard bolt for a touchdown as the Golden Eagles outscored UTSA 20-7 in the second half.
“De’Michael and Quez, they had some big plays and that’s what those guys can do,” USM coach Jay Hopson said. “They’re explosive players, and they made explosive plays. Give them all the credit.”
Harris finished with a career-high 121 yards and two touchdowns and Watkins topped the 100-yard receiving mark for the fourth time this season as the Golden Eagles (7-3, 5-1 Conference USA) logged their third consecutive win.
That matched their longest streak since winning three in a row in November 2017.
The win also moved USM 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.
But that Tech game marked the USM’s last lost, and Saturday, the Golden Eagles were able to pocket another win despite a handful of costly mistakes and miscues.
“It wasn’t our best performance, but we’ll take it,” Hopson said. “We’ll take the win and we’re glad to get out here with it. This is a good football team we beat (Saturday).”
USM 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 5 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 47-42 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.”
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, Jones 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 USM 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 Harris, who found a crease in the middle, brought one defender to his knees with a shimmy to the right and split two more Roadrunners while 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 pass.
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.
Perkins provided a complimentary 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 Texas-El Paso.
USM 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 this season.
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 Texas-San Antonio 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.”
USM returns to M.M. Roberts Stadium Saturday for its final home game, welcoming Western Kentucky University at 2:30 p.m.
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