WHLT — Southern Miss football claimed the Conference USA West Division title in a big way Saturday, downing Louisiana Tech 58-24. The Golden Eagles outscored the Bulldogs 27-7 in the fourth quarter, 20 of those points coming in a span of just 45 seconds. The win pits USM in the C-USA Championship Game for the first time since 2011.Southern Miss Football Report: Nov. 29, 2015Record: 9-3, 7-1 C-USA West Division ChampionsLast Week
W, 58-24 at Louisiana Tech* (Joe Aillet Stadium/Ruston, La./19,028)This Week
Saturday, Dec. 5, at WKU^, 11 a.m. CT (Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium/Bowling Green, Ky./22,113, TV – ESPN 2, Bob Wischusen, play-by-play; Brock Huard, analysis; Shannon Spake, sidelines)
^ C-USA Championship GameOffensive Player of the Week Nomination
Sophomore RB Ito Smith (5-9, 195, Semmes, Ala.)
Ito Smith rushed for a career-high 169 yards on 22 carries with three rushing touchdowns to go along with four catches for 40 yards. His three touchdowns broke open a tight game that decided the C-USA West Division in a 58-24 victory at LA Tech. The touchdowns all came within a span of 45 seconds early in the fourth quarter, all on the first play of three consecutive drives, immediately following a LA Tech turnover. His touchdown runs came from 57, 17 and 11 yards and the game went from 31-17 before the touchdowns to 51-17 after them. His game rushing total was the ninth-highest ever for a Golden Eagle sophomore. He needs just 17 yards to register 1,000 for the season. Smith tallied the fifth 100-yard rushing contest of the seven and seven for his career.Defensive Player of the Week Nomination
Senior LB Terrick Wright (6-2, 225, Gadsden, Ala.)
The senior linebacker registered four tackles for the Golden Eagles and notched a fumble recovery on the opening play of the fourth quarter, which led to a Golden Eagle touchdown on the next play. On the ensuing Bulldog offensive series, Wright intercepted a Jeff Driskel pass on that first play of the drive that he returned 22 yards deep into LA Tech territory. Again, Southern Miss capitalized on the next play with a touchdown run to help pull away in the game. Wright tallied two of the Golden Eagles’ seven turnovers forced in the contest.Special Teams Player of the Week Nomination
Junior P Tyler Sarrazin (6-3, 204, Geismar, La.)
Against LA Tech, Sarrazin tallied five punts for an average of 39.6 yards, including a season-best 58 yard punt. On three of his punts, Sarrazin pinned LA Tech deep in their own end, with punts being downed at the 10, 9 and 2 yard lines.
• With the victory at LA Tech, Southern Miss collected its third C-USA divisional championship. The Golden Eagles won the East Division in 2006 and 2011. This is the program’s first West Division title, after moving to the other side of the standings prior to last season. Overall, Southern Miss holds five C-USA football championships (1996, 1997, 1999, 2003, 2011), more than any other school in the league’s history.
- The Golden Eagles captured their ninth victory of the season, marking the 15th time in school history in 99 seasons that the program has recorded that many victories.
- Southern Miss forced seven turnovers against LA Tech, six in the second half.
- Long-time Voice of the Golden Eagles, John Cox, called his 400th career football game for the school against LA Tech.
- Southern Miss limited LA Tech to minus-2 rushing yards. It was the first time that the team held an opponent to under 50 yards since limiting Memphis to 7 yards on Nov. 26, 2011.
- Southern Miss scored three touchdowns over 45-second span off of three LA Tech turnovers, converting all on one-play drives. All three drives were scoring runs from Ito Smith from 57, 17 and 11 yards.
- Sophomore Ito Smith is 17 yards away from 1,000 yards rushing for the season. If Smith reaches this plateau, it will be only the second time in school history that two players reached this mark in the same season as Jalen Richard already has achieved that feat (1,065). The other time this happened was in 1981 when RB Sammy Winder (1,029) and QB Reggie Collier (1,005).
- QB Nick Mullens has now thrown a touchdown pass in 14-straight games. Mullens ended the day with three touchdown passes, giving him 35 for the year and tallying at least two TD passes in a game 10 times this season. He has now thrown for over 300 yards 13 times in his career, including nine times this season, and 26 times of throwing for at least 200 yards.
- Jalen Richard moved into fourth-place on the single-season school chart for rushing touchdowns with a second-quarter score from 13 yards.
- Mike Thomas moved into third place on the school single-season chart for receiving yards with 1,111 after tallying his seventh 100-yard receiving contest of the season and ninth of his career. He had a career-best 162 yards on seven grabs. With a one-handed touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone in the second quarter, Thomas has caught at least one touchdown in each of his last eight games.
- The Golden Eagles went over 300 yards of total offense for the fourth time in the first half this season, tallying the second most yards of the year versus LA Tech. They tallied 374 first-half yards at Rice (11/14).
- D’Nerius Antoine registered his second interception of the season with a pick on the opening drive of the second half. His other interception came at Nebraska which was also on the opening drive of the second half.
- On Smith’s 57-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter, it gave Southern Miss its 11th touchdown on an offensive play that went at least 50 yards.
- Southern Miss plays in its third league championship game this week, going 1-1 in those contests. They dropped a 34-20 decision at Houston in 2006, and then shocked the undefeated Cougars in the 2011 title game 49-28 en route to a school-record 12 wins.