HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - University of Southern Mississippi quarterback Tate Whatkey’s career day Saturday couldn’t trump University of Texas-San Antonio running back Sincere McCormick’s usual day on the football field.
In his second start of the season, Whatley returned from an injury that cost him three games to throw for 272 yards and two touchdowns.
But it wasn’t enough, as McCormick rushed for 173 yards and two touchdowns as the Roadrunners held off the Golden Eagles 23-20 at M.M. Roberts Stadium.
Whatley, who spent three weeks recovering from the effects of a concussion suffered Oct. 24 at Liberty University completed 22-of-39 passes with an interception.
His last completion was to himself on a tipped pass that cost the Golden Eagles minus 19 yards as well as Whatley, who appeared to have injured his throwing shoulder when 245-pound defensive tackle Lorenzo Dantzler hammered him into the artificial turf.
“He’s a warrior,” said USM running back Frank Gore Jr., who led the Golden Eagles with 70 yards rushing and also scored on a 51-yard catch-and-run that cut UTSA’s lead to three points in the fourth quarter.
“That’s one thing I know. We’ve got a leader here for us. He’ll give it his all for us.”
USM (2-7, 1-4 C=USA) managed to hold McCormick in relative check Saturday. Well, at least for a half.
McCormick picked up the bulk of his yards over the game’s final 30 minutes, scoring on runs of 69 yards and 1 yard in the third quarter.
On the day, the 5-foot-9, 200-pound sophomore plowed his way for 173 yards and the two scores on 32 carries. He gained 129 yards on 19 carries in the second half as he cracked the 1,000-yard rushing mark for a second consecutive season.
“They have a very good offensive line and brought two tight ends,” USM interim head coach Tim Billings said. “They found a big play (McCormick’s 69-yard run) when we were out pf position. The following series, they ran over us a little bit.
“But we made a few adjustments and played well the rest of the game.”
USM got within three points on Briggs Bourgeois 27-yard field with 34 seconds left in the third quarter and Gore’s mystical run with Whatley’s pass.
“IF you watch Frank Gore Jr. you will see he is a really good football player,” Billings said. “He is in the locker room, upset, because he is a competitor.
“I love the kid, and we are blessed to have him here.”
Gore accounted for 127 yards on 15 touches.
USM led 10-9 at halftime, thanks to a 37-yard field goal by Bourgeois and a 13-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Whatley to Tim Jones.
It was Jones’ third touchdown catch of the season and his first since being injured on Sept. 26. He finished with five catches for 65 yards, moving onto fifth place on USM’s career receptions list.
UTSA (6-4, 4-2) first scored on a safety, cutting a 3-0 USM lead to point.
Roadrunners linebacker Jamal Ligon sacked Whatley at USM’s 2-yard line, causing a fumble that rolled into the end zone where USM recovered.
The Roadrunners took a 9-3 lead when quarterback Frank Harris found receiver Zakhari Franklin with a 13-yard touchdown pass with 5:48 left in the first half.
But aided by a pair of UTSA penalties _ including a “spearing” call that saw safety Antonio Parks ejected _ USM drove 75 yards for the score that gave them a slim lead.
UTSA quarterback Frank Harris completed 12-of-19 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown with an interception.