Golden Eagles Fall in Season Opener
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) - Texas State's Tyler Arndt slipped through the Southern Mississippi defensive line, made a quick move and then ended up strolling into the end zone for the 17-yard, go-ahead touchdown.
It was the ending of a beautiful fourth-quarter drive that seemingly came out of nowhere as the Bobcats rallied to beat Southern Miss 22-15 on Saturday night.
"I knew we were due for a good drive," Arndt said. "The offensive side of the ball had let the defense down for most of the night."
Arndt's optimism was hard to fathom considering how Texas State had let an early 14-3 lead slip away. Southern Mississippi took a 15-14 lead with 5:43 remaining on Corey Acosta's 36-yard field goal and Texas State had barely managed 100 yards of total offense at that point in the night.
But Arndt and the Bobcats were clutch when it mattered. The senior quarterback led a 75-yard drive - which included a long pass completion on fourth-and-19 - to lead the Bobcats to the victory. "It took a mentally tough team to come in here and do what we were able to do," Texas State coach Dennis Franchione said. "It was a hard fought game. When they got up we answered the bell and that's what you have to do."
Texas State took advantage of six Southern Miss turnovers, including four lost fumbles.
Southern Miss lost in the debut of coach Todd Monken. The Golden Eagles have lost 13 straight games. Their last win was in the 2011 Hawaii Bowl and the losing streak is the longest in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Allan Bridgford threw for 377 yards for the Golden Eagles.
"We earned that (loss)," Monken said. "You can't drop footballs. You can't turn (the ball) over. You're not going to win. I don't care what level you're at."
Texas State is playing its second season against a full FBS schedule and is in its first season as a member of the Sun Belt Conference.
Texas State didn't have a good night on offense - with only 215 total yards - but the Bobcats were opportunistic.
They took a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter when Craig Mager ripped the ball away from Tyre'oune Holmes after a short completion and ran untouched 44 yards for a touchdown.
Jordan Moore threw a 23-yard touchdown to Robert Lowe with 8:52 left in the second quarter to push Texas State ahead 14-0 with 8:52 remaining in the second quarter. It was Moore's only completion of the game.
The Bobcats led 14-3 at halftime despite only 100 total yards of offense.
Bridgford started at quarterback for Southern Miss after emerging from a four-man battle during preseason camp. But the California transfer didn't have much success early, connecting on some short throws but missing on most attempts downfield.
It wasn't all Bridgford's fault. He didn't have much time to throw against Texas State's aggressive defense and Rickey Bradley dropped what looked to be a certain touchdown catch late in the second quarter.
Bridgford finally connected two long throws to Bradley in the third quarter - one went for 65 yards and the other 59 - as Southern Miss started its rally in the third quarter.
The Golden Eagles pulled within 14-5 on a safety after Texas State lost a snap through the back of the end zone. Then Bridgford his James Cox for a 6-yard touchdown to make it 14-12.
It was a tough debut for Monken, who wants to run his up-tempo offense that was so successful during his two seasons as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State. But the Golden Eagles looked lost for much of Saturday in front of two-thirds full Roberts Stadium. The turnovers didn't help, either.
Southern Miss lost three fumbles in the first nine minutes of the game.
The Golden Eagles now take a 13-game losing streak into a brutal three-game road stretch against Nebraska, Arkansas and Boise State.
Bridgford completed 28 of 53 passes and threw one touchdown and two interceptions.