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Southern Miss Rallies for 44-35 Upset of Kentucky

Sept. 03, 2016

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From Special Reports

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Southern Mississippi got the Jay Hopson era off to a rousing start Saturday night with one of the most stirring comebacks in the 100-year history of the football program.

Nick Mullens overcame a shaky start to throw for two touchdowns and run for two more and two Golden Eagles cracked the 100-yard rushing mark as the Golden Eagles overcame a 25-point deficit for a 44-35 victory over Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium.

The Golden Eagles (1-0) claimed their first victory over a Southeastern Conference opponent since defeating Alabama in 2000.

Southern Miss trailed 35-10 with less than a minute in the first half before Mullens and first-year receiver Isaiah Jones hooked up on a 71-yard touchdown pass with 14 seconds to play.

The Golden Eagles owned the second half, scoring on every possession except its final one when they turned the ball over on downs while running the clock all the way down.

It was the largest comeback by Southern Miss since at least 2009, when the Golden Eagles rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit to beat Virginia.

In the third quarter, Mullens scored on a pair of short runs sandwiched around an 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Julian Allen, giving Southern Miss a 38-35 lead.

Parker Shaunfield, who had kicked a 31-yard field goal in the first half, booted field goals of 49 yards and 25 yards in the second half.

The Golden Eagle defense stymied the Wildcats (0-1) in the second half, allowing Kentucky a net 46 yards on 16 snaps in five possessions.

Southern Miss also collected three turnovers, including two fumble recoveries and an interception.

The Golden Eagles iced the game when defensive end Xavier Thigpen sacked Wildcats quarterback Drew Barker, forcing a fumble recovered by defensive tackle Dylan Bradley with 2:07 to play. Ito Smith piled up 213 yards rushing and receiving; including a career-high 173 yards rushing on 38 carries. George Payne ran for 100 yards on 16 carries.

Jones had a team-high 93 yards on three catches.

Barker, a sophomore who had started twice last season, sliced up USM in the first half as the Wildcats unleashed a quick-strike offense that produced five touchdown drives of 2 minutes, 4 seconds, or less. Three drives took less than a minute and encompassed just two plays each.

JoJo Kemp's 7-yard run with 56 seconds left in the second quarter put the Wildcats up 35-10. Barker completed 15 of 24 passes for 323 yards with the four touchdowns and an interception. Garrett Johnson, who had touchdown catches of 53 yards and 43 yards, caught six passes for 143 yards. Stanley Williams led the Wildcats on the ground with 94 yards on 13 carries.

Southern Miss Stuns Kentucky by Southern Miss on Exposure

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