HATTIESBURG, MISS. – Kai Locksley gave the Miner offense a spark with 109 yards passing and 114 yards rushing, including a 63-yard touchdown, but UTEP wasn’t able to overcome a slow start and dropped a 31-13 decision at Southern Miss on Saturday night.
Jack Abraham threw for 351 yards for the Golden Eagles (3-2), who won their Conference USA opener over the Miners (1-3).
Southern Miss jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the opening minutes. Abraham completed a 74-yard touchdown pass to De’Michael Harris on the third play from scrimmage. Then, after the Miners had a punt blocked, Southern Miss set up shop at the UTEP two-yard line and Harris ran for another score.
“We were playing a really good football team in Southern Miss and in a tough environment and we go down 14-0 early in the ball game, but I thought after that it was a really solid football game,” head coach Dana Dimel said. “I was mostly proud of the way we competed. Obviously, we had our mistakes and we have to eliminate the unforced errors. But with the way our guys are fighting and the effort they are giving, it is just unbelievable and I am so proud of that. We have a big game coming up this week against UTSA, so the challenge was to have a great week next week, get better and get ourselves ready for a huge game against UTSA.”
After that, the Miners hung in with the Golden Eagles, who are picked to finish second in C-USA’s West Division, for the final 55 minutes.
UTEP shaved three points off the two-touchdown deficit when Gavin Baechle nailed a 28-yard field goal with 14:02 remaining in the second quarter.
The Miners stayed within striking distance until late in the second quarter, when Abraham connected with Jordan Mitchell for a 22-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 21-3. The Golden Eagles converted three third downs on the drive, as they moved 78 yards on 12 plays.
Baechle’s career-long 46-yard field goal made it 21-6 with 16 seconds left in the half. The Miners squib kicked and the Golden Eagles recovered near midfield. Abraham got Southern Miss in field goal range with a 29-yard pass to Tim Jones, and Andrew Stein cashed in with a 38-yarder to make it 24-6 at halftime.
The Miners reached paydirt early in the second half when Kai Locksley broke free for a 63-yard touchdown run, the longest by a UTEP quarterback in 18 years. But Southern Miss got the seven points back as Abraham engineered a 10-play, 82-yard TD drive, capped by his six-yard pass to Jaylond Adams in the end zone.
Neither team scored the rest of the game, as UTEP and Southern Miss played to a 7-7 deadlock in the second half.
Locksley, who didn’t play in the fourth quarter, tallied his third 100-yard rushing game as a Miner. He accounted for 114 of the team’s 126 rushing yards. Brandon Jones also saw extensive action for UTEP at quarterback and completed 6-of-13 passes for 59 yards.
Southern Miss outgained the Miners in total yards, 519-294. Kevin Perkins (65 yards) and Harris (62) combined for 127 of the Golden Eagles’ 168 rushing yards.
The Miners will take on UTSA in their 88th Homecoming game next Saturday (Oct. 5) at 6 p.m.