HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) — Ismail Mahdi returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and added three rushing touchdowns to highlight Texas State’s 50-36 victory over Southern Mississippi on Saturday night.
Mahdi nearly had a fifth touchdown on a bizarre play in the third quarter. Bobcats quarterback TJ Finley was about to be sacked deep in Texas State territory but managed to flip the ball forward to Mahdi who took off down the sideline. As he approached the end zone, Southern Miss defensive back Jay Stanley knocked the ball loose and it bounced out of bounds in the end zone. The play was first ruled a touchdown, but the call was reversed and Mahdi was left with a 90-yard reception and a fumble for a touchback.
Texas State led 42-16 at the time but the Golden Eagles rallied, scoring touchdowns on their next three possessions for a 42-36 deficit. The Bobcats, who scored 42 points in the first half, finally got on the board again with a 14-yard run by Malik Hornsby with 1:39 left in the game. It was only a 3-play, 18-yard drive after the Bobcats stopped the Golden Eagles on downs.
Finley completed 19 of 24 passes for 339 yards with two touchdowns for Texas State (4-1, 1-0 Sun Belt). Mahdi had 89 yards rushing, 90 yards receiving and 117 yards in kick returns. Joey Hobert had 126 yards on 10 receptions and Ashtyn Hawkins caught five for 101 yards.
Billy Wiles went 19-for-35 for 257 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for Southern Miss (1-4, 0-2). Frank Gore Jr. had two touchdowns and 116 rushing yards and Latreal Jones had six receptions for 124 yards.