A historical night for Southern Miss running back Frank Gore Jr. fueled the Golden Eagles to a 38-24 victory over Rice in the LendingTree Bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium on Saturday.
Gore, a 5-foot-8, 194-pound junior, rushed for an NCAA Division I bowl game record and school-record 329 yards on 21 carries with touchdown runs of 64 and 55 yards. He also threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Tiaquelin Mims to become the first player in NCAA Division I bowl history to rush for at least 250 yards and throw a touchdown pass in the same game. Gore's rushing total was the top single-game rushing performance in the country this season.
His performance led the way as the Golden Eagles scored the final 21 points of the game to win a bowl for the first time since beating Louisiana in the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 17, 2016.
Southern Miss (7-6) scored the first 14 points of the game on a 19-yard pass from Trey Lowe III to Jakarius Caston and the 64-yard run by Gore. The Golden Eagles led 17-3 at halftime.
Things took a dramatic turn in the third quarter. Freshman quarterback A.J. Padgett threw three touchdown passes in the third quarter as Rice (5-8) built a 24-17 lead. Two of the scoring tosses went to Isaiah Esdale and Bradley Rozner grabbed the other.
Southern Miss tied the game on Gore's touchdown pass and took the lead early in the fourth quarter on a perfectly placed pass from Lowe to Jason Brownlee in the back corner of the end zone. Rice threatened to tie the game on the next series, but Eric Scott's fourth-down pass breakup in the end zone stopped the threat.
After that, the Southern Miss defense dominated. Linebacker Daylen Gill had all three of his sacks in the fourth quarter and also ended up with a team-high 11 tackles. The Golden Eagles finished with five sacks, seven tackles for loss, an interception by Jay Stanley and fumble recovery by Malik Shorts.
Gore's 55-yard touchdown run with 2:57 left iced the game for the Golden Eagles. His scoring run came after he lost a fumble.
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