Late-game lapses send USM to 44-37 defeat at Arkansas State

Published: Sep. 23, 2023 at 10:24 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (WDAM) - After spending most of Saturday evening scrapping its way back into its football game at Arkansas State University, the University of Southern Mississippi saw its victory hopes dashed in a less than 90 seconds.

After tying the game 34-34 with 14 minutes to play, USM saw the Red Wolves take a 10-point lead on a field goal and touchdown on consecutive possessions over a 1 minute, 22 seconds, and hold on for a 44-37 victory at Centennial Bank Stadium.

A 21 yard field-goal broke a fourth-quarter tie and Jaylen Raynor’s 62-yard touchdown run turned out to be the difference maker as the Red Wolves won the Sun Belt Conference opener for both schools.

Raynor accounted for five of ASU’s six touchdowns on the night, throwing for three and rushing for two more. He completed 11-of-21 passes with an interception for 233 yards. He also netted 97 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.

Two mistakes, a Billy Wiles interception and a blocked punt by ASU, set up 10 points by the Red Wolves in the first quarter and erased an early 7-0 lead by the Golden Eagles.

USM scrambled back to trail just 20-17 at halftime, but Raynor found Courtney Jackson with a 60-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second half, and followed that with an 8-yard touchdown run to put the Golden Eagles in scramble mode for the rest of the third quarter, trailing 34-17.

But back came the Golden Eagles, finally pulling even early in the fourth quarter after a 59-yard scoring run by Rodrigues Clark, a 42-yard Andrew Stein field goal and a 22-yard TD pass from Wiles to Jakarious Caston.

But ASU’s 10-point burst proved enough of a buffer to withstand Stein’s third field goal of the game, a 37-yarder with 16 seconds to play.

USM outgained the Red Wolves (2-2, 1-0), 449 total yards to 425 total yards, but the Golden Eagles were unable to avoid their third, consecutive loss.

Wiles com[plet6ed 20-of-26 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.

Frank Gore Jr. recorded his first 100-yard rushing day of the season and ninth of his career, picking up 132 yards on 20 carries, including a 2-yard touchdown run.

Clark added 77 yards rushing on four carries.

USM will host Texas State University at 6 p.m. Saturday at M.M. Roberts Stadium.

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