TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Southern Miss football was on the wrong end of a rout.
The Golden Eagles were within reach for the first 22 minutes Saturday night, but No. 5 Florida State kept the pedal to the metal in a 66-13 takedown of Southern Miss.
Florida State (2-0) jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but Southern Miss hung around until midway through the second quarter. The Seminoles responded to the Golden Eagles’ first points of the game with 17 points on their next three possessions, taking a 31-3 lead at halftime.
Southern Miss (1-1) didn’t offer as much resistance in the second half, surrendering three touchdowns in the first five minutes. It scored its only touchdown late in the third quarter, but the game was well out of hand.
Southern Miss abandons run early
The rhythm of the game forced Southern Miss to abandon the running game, but even in ideal run situations they didn’t utilize Frank Gore Jr.
Southern Miss opened with nine straight passing plays, with the first running play not coming until the final snap of the first quarter. It was a one-yard rush from Gore on second-and-15.
The aerial attack wasn’t effective either.
Southern Miss quarterback Billy Wiles completed 3 of 8 attempts for 28 yards in the quarter. He was flagged for intentional grounding on the ninth passing play.
Gore was the only USM running back with a carry by the end of the first half, taking seven attempts for 22 yards.
Pass defense shines early, but eventually falters
For all the talk of Florida State’s passing attack, Southern Miss’ defense was a problem for the Seminoles.
FSU scored with ease on its first drive, then had to earn it on the next few drives. First, it went three-and-out, then produced a 12-play scoring drive before turning the ball over on downs late in the first quarter.
It was a sound combination of pressure up front and tight coverage down the field.
Two deflected passes in particular stood out.
First, it was junior cornerback Markel McLaurin, who broke up a pass that might have resulted in a 40-yard touchdown. Later in the half, sophomore safety Elijah Sabbatini used his athleticism to prevent what could’ve been another long FSU touchdown.
Penalties hinder Southern Miss
Contributing to Southern Miss’ offensive struggles were an abundance of penalties.
In the first half, the Golden Eagles committed 11 penalties totaling 68 yards. They came on both sides of the ball, leaving the offense behind the chains and the defense on its heels.
None of the individual penalties were detrimental. Rather, they were small setbacks that kept adding up.
Southern Miss cleaned it up in the second half, committing just two penalties.