HATTIESBURG, Miss. _ Kevin Perkins scored a trio of touchdowns to lift the University of Southern Mississippi to a 24-13 victory Saturday afternoon over the University of North Alabama.
The Golden Eagles (2-5) ran for a season-high 245 yards in support of the first career start by USM quarterback Trey Lowe.
Lowe got the nod with both starter Jack Abraham and Tate Whatley injured.
Freshman Frank Gore Jr. turned in the second, 100-yard game of his young career, rushing for 103 yards on 13 carries.
Darius Maberry added 53 yards rushing and Perkins had 37 yards, including touchdown runs of 1 yard, 11 yards and 17 yards.
“All week, during practice, it was, ‘Pound the ball, pound the ball, pound the ball,’” Perkins said. “And that’s what we did.”
The Lions, members of college football’s Football Championship Subdivision, led for much of the game, as the Golden Eagles fumbled and stumbled about for more than three quarters.
But USM scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to snap a two-game losing streak and give Tim Billings his first victory as the Golden Eagles’ interim head football coach.
USM committed four turnovers, including fumbling away the opening kickoff, followed by Lowe tossing an interception on the Golden Eagles second offensive snap of the game.
USM also saw a a chip-shot field goal attempt blocked.
The Lions (0-3) held leads of 7-0, 10-7 and 13-7 after each of the first three quarters, respectively.
But USM’s defense limited the Lions to 13 yards total offense in the fourth quarter and 175 yards for the game.
“That’s something we’ve been trying to do all season,” USM linebacker Santrell Latham said. “This is a big win for our confidence.”
After recovering USM’s fumble to kick off the game, the Lions needed just one play to get in the end zone, a 12-yard pass from Blake Dever to Andre Little, and take a 7-0 lead.
UNA made it 10-0 in the second quarter on a 29-yard field goal by Sam Contorno. The score was set up when Lowe and Maberry botched a handoff, with UNA linebacker Will Evans recovering the fumble at the Golden Eagles' 23-yard line.
USM got on the board midway through the second quarter, as Perkins capped an 11-play, 70-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to being the Golden Eagles within 10-7 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Lowe was hit as he was throwing, leaving the ball well short of where it was intended and instead falling into the hands of a leaping UNA defensive back Gerrell Green at the Lions' 48-yard line.
That led to a 22-yard field goal by Contorno and a 13-7 lead for the Lions.
But Perkins gave USM the lead for good on an 11-yard run that finished off a 12-play, 66-yard drive with 12:08 left in the game.
He added a 17-yard scoring run with 5:33 to play, padding USM’s lead to 21-13, and Briggs Bourgeois' added a 38-yard field goal with less than 2 minutes to play to round out the scoring.