The Bell’s one-year stay in Hattiesburg came to an end Saturday.
Tulane (2-1) controlled the line of scrimmage for four quarters in a 21-3 win over Southern Miss (1-2) that was dominated by a Green Wave defense that held the Golden Eagles out of the end zone.
Southern Miss picked up just 14 first downs and was held without a touchdown for the first time since 2021 against UAB.
Golden Eagle quarterback Billy Wiles completed just one 20-plus yard pass against a Tulane front that spent plenty of time in his pocket.
Frank Gore Jr. gained just 16 yards on 13 carries behind an offensive line that struggled to create any running lanes.
“We’re a better football team than how we’re playing,” coach Will Hall said after the game. “That’s on me as the leader and the head football coach.”
The loss makes two in a row for the Golden Eagles after a poor showing at Florida State last week.
The first half nearly looked a lot different.
A couple of missed opportunities for USM on fourth down in the first quarter altered the course of the game. Gore Jr. just overthrew a wide open Justyn Reid on a play that would’ve likely ended in six points.
The next possession, Andrew Stein missed a 48-yard field goal that snapped a streak of eight consecutive makes for Stein.
Tulane made quick work of its opening possession, but reached the red zone just once the rest of the opening half.
“We never made the play to kind of get us over the hump and break it open,” Hall said of his offense picking up just one chunk play, a 39-yard pass from Wiles to Jakarius Caston in the third quarter.
Southern Miss was able to move the football into Green Wave territory on five different possessions, but gained just 2.7 yards per play when on the right side of midfield.
“I thought, in the first half on our side of the field, we were doing all right,” Wiles said. “We just couldn’t finish drives. That’s execution.”
Wiles completed 14 of his first 20 pass attempts for 156 yards before finishing 5-for-13 for just 21 yards down the stretch.
Defense rounds into form
The defense that kept the Golden Eagles in so many games in 2022 showed up in its disruptive form.
Southern Miss recorded only six total tackles for loss across the first two contests of the season. It doubled that number against the Green Wave and picked up three sacks in the process.
“They took the opening drive down and scored and after that I thought we played pretty well,” Hall said.
Tulane was held well before its yards-per-game average and a touchdown short of its scoring average. Safety Jay Stanley once again led the defense with a 10-tackle game.
But just like the offense, Stanley’s unit failed to come up with a momentum-shifting play.
“I feel like when the team needs a big play, I’m normally the person to make it,” Stanley said. “I didn’t make any big plays. I feel like I could’ve changed the game if I would’ve made a big play.”
“This was a game where we never really made a play,” Hall added. “We never caused a turnover, we never made an explosive in the kicking game.”
Southern Miss opens conference play next Saturday on the road at Arkansas State.