Taking advantage of opportunities earned throughout the game, the Troy Trojans defeated the Southern Miss Golden Eagles 37-31 in a wild night in Hattiesburg.
The ending was a script made for Hollywood. The homestanding Golden Eagles, trailing throughout the game, had one last chance after multiple misfires to pull out the win. They had to go 79 yards in 1:50 with multiple timeouts in hand. Nick Mullens hit pass after pass, willing the home team downfield.
Running out of time and needing a touchdown to win the game, Mullens found Allenzae Staggers for a 24-yard gain to the Troy 10-yard line. The quarterback rushed to the officials, demanding their last timeout with only :03 seconds left on the clock. When the teams once again entered the field, the Trojans called a timeout of their own, giving one last thought to this all encompassing play.
Mullens took the snap as the edge rushers were pushed to the outside by the tackles. With his pocket clean and a clear view of the endzone, the senior quarterback fired a dart into the middle of the field. Glory was not meant to be as Trojan defenders congregated at the point of reception and destroyed the hopes of a dejected home crowd.
The preseason #5 Sun Belt squad had knocked off the preseason Conference USA favorites in thrilling fashion.
The game began in great fashion for the home squad as the Golden Eagles were able to find paydirt first. Safety Devonta Foster picked off Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers, returning it 61 yards for a touchdown. A Parker Shaunfield PAT gave Southern Miss a quick 7-0 lead.
The Trojans quickly responded with a drive to the Southern Miss 34-yard line. Facing a fourth and two, Silvers hit Deondre Douglas for a 34-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 7-7. Disaster then struck Southern Miss as return man Isaiah Jones fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the ball to the Trojans on the 29-yard line.
Two plays later, the Trojans took a 14-7 lead on a 29-yard touchdown pass to Emanuel Thompson.
The Trojans were again able to take advantage of another Southern Miss mistake as a bad snap on a punt gave the Trojans the ball at the USM 10-yard line. Running back Jordan Chunn came up short on third and goal, sending the field goal unit to the field. Ryan Kay nailed the 30-yard field goal, extending the Trojan lead to 17-7.
After a series of punts, the Golden Eagles finally showed signs of life with an 8-play, 34-yard drive. Shaunfield finished the drive with a 41-yard field goal to cut the Troy lead to 17-10. Following a Troy punt, Mullens threw a bad interception to Rashad Dillard. Two plays later, Troy was up 24-10 on an 11-yard touchdown pass to Andre Flakes.
Southern Miss found their offense once again as the first half was close to expiring. Mullens hit Tyre’ounce Holmes, Isaiah Jones, and Allenzae Staggers for passes to pull into scoring range. Ito Smith ended the drive with a two-yard touchdown run to cut the Troy lead to 24-17 at the half.
Facing a deficit for the first time since week one, Southern Miss immediately tied the game as Smith took his first touch of the second half 70 yards for a touchdown. The successful PAT tied the game at 24.
Another Mullens interception saw Troy find good field position at the Southern Miss 49-yard line. They got as far as the 25-yard line before being forced to attempt a field goal. A 42-yard kick by Ryan Kay was good, extending the Troy lead to 27-24.
Again, USM made a perplexing decision and went for a fake punt, coming up short. Two plays later, the Troy lead was at 10 once again on a Jordan Chunn 39-yard rushing touchdown. This time, Southern Miss responded with a 48 yard drive. Mullens found Staggers for a 16-yard touchdown. With the PAT, the Trojan lead was down to 34-31.
A series of punts saw Troy gain field position and kick a 43-yard field goal to take a 37-31 lead with 10:21 left in the game.
Despite Southern Miss getting multiple chances to take the lead and the win, the Troy defense came up with stop after stop. The Golden Eagles’ final drive got as close as the nine-yard line, with one final play to determine the outcome. The Troy defense came up big once more in earning a hard-fought 37-31 win.
Troy running back Jordan Chunn rushed for 176 yards in the win, while Golden Eagles running back Ito Smith rushed for 131 yards in the defeat.
With the loss, Southern Miss falls to 2-1 on the season. They have the chance to rebound with a win as they start conference play at UTEP. Troy improves to 2-1 on the year with the win and host New Mexico State to start Sun Belt play.