HOUSTON, Texas (WDAM) - Junior running back Kevin Perkins scored the first two touchdowns of his University of Southern Mississippi career Saturday afternoon as the Golden Eagles eked out a 20-6 Conference USA victory at Rice University.
Perkins, who finished with a career-high 86 yards on 13 carries, scored on a 2-yard run in the second quarter and a 38-yard run with 32 seconds to play.
USM (5-3, 3-1 C-USA) got a pair of field goals from freshman Andrew Stein to round out a stingy day at Rice Stadium where points were hard to find for both teams.
“Definitely a defensive game,” USM coach Jay Hopson said, “but a good team win.
“Not the offense’s best day, but thought we played well on special teams for the most part and played well defensively.”
Junior quarterback Jack Abraham completed 23-of-36 passes for 207 yards with an interception. Abraham did not throw a touchdown pass in a game for the first time this season and only the second time in his USM career.
USM’s defense limited Rice (0-8, 0-4) to just 139 yards total offense, including as net 8 yards rushing. The Golden Eagles sacked Rice quarterbacks Wiley Green and Evan Marshman eight times, including three times in a row in the fourth quarter with USM clinging to a 13-6 lead.
A scoreless first quarter set the game’s tone before the Golden Eagles jumped out to a 10-0 halftime lead on Stein’s 24-yard field goal and the shorter of Perkins’ scoring runs.
USM had to settle for a second Stein field goal, a 34-yarder, early in the third quarter before the momentum shifted.
Aided by two USM penalties, Rice drove 70 yards on seven plays, with Green finding Austin Trammel for a 15-yard touchdown. After the extra point was botched, USM led 13-6.
Late in the third quarter, Rice intercepted an Abraham pass at the USM 29, and drove to the 2-yard line. But Green was picked off at the end zone by junior safety Ky’el Hemby.
The Golden Eagles then marched the length of the field, reaching first-and-goal at the Rice 4. But USM was denied the end zone by the Owls, and Stein missed a 27-yard field goal.
“That was a huge momentum swing,” Hopson said. “We gave it right back to them there, couldn’t get it in, then missed the field goal. But (Hemby’s interception) that was the play of the game.
“We played physical, played really well on defense, and we’re happy with the win.”
The teams traded punts until Perkins’ run in the final seconds.
USM receiver Tim Jones grabbed a career-best 10 passes for 96 yards and Quez Watkins added six catches for 67 yards.
Three USM running backs who had been waylaid by injury appeared in the game, with senior D’Michael Harris gaining 41 yards on 12 carries. Sophomores Trivenskey Mosely and Steven Anderson each had a carry.
USM will have a bye week before hosting the University of Alabama-Birmingham at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 9.