SMU's five-game winning streak came to a crushing stop Saturday in a 27-3 loss at Southern Miss. It's not stunning that the Mustangs lost on the road to the Golden Eagles, who improved to 6-1 overall. It's the way they lost. SMU (5-2, 3-1 Conference USA) couldn't even muster a touchdown in June Jones' vaunted Run-and-Shoot. They had to settle for a field goal in the middle of the second quarter. ... and that was it.
Southern Miss' defense disrupted the rhythm of J.J. McDermott, SMU's quarterback who had entered the game as 5-0 as a starter and appeared to be leading an offense really finding its groove.
But SMU put itself in position to score only three times Saturday, and couldn't get into the end zone on any of them. On the first opportunity, SMU drove to Southern Miss' 13, but had to settle for a 31-yard field goal attempt, which Chase Hover missed off the left upright. The second chance, in the second quarter, SMU drove all the way to the 3, but couldn't complete a pass on third down and this time settled for a 19-yard field goal.
SMU was still hanging around early in the fourth quarter, thanks to an interception and forced fumble and recovery by its defense, down just 13-3.
SMU again drove, but this time McDermott overshot receiver Cole Beasley in the end zone. The ball tipped off Beasley's hands and Southern Miss picked it off. An interception return for a touchdown and a 55-yard scoring run for the Eagles then finished off the Mustangs.
SMU's three points was its worst total since a 35-3 loss at Texas Tech in 2006.
SMU (5-2, 3-1) is still in the hunt for the West Division title, but faces another tough road challenge, now heading to Tulsa.
--SMU entered the game averaging 33.7 points per game, but fell 27-3 to Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles were also held well below their average. They were averaging 38.7 points per game coming in.
--SMU was just 4-of-13 on third-down conversions.
--SMU missed its chance to win six in a row for the first time since 1984.
KEEP AN EYE ON: QB J.J. McDermott -- The senior sustained his first loss as a starter after winning five straight. Southern Miss was able to harass him, as he went 16-of-32 for 173 yards and two interceptions. He criticized his play after the game, though his protection was lacking at times against a strong Southern Miss defensive front.
LOOKING GOOD: The defense kept SMU in the game, coming up with two huge takeaways in the first half to keep it close. Entering the game, SMU had just four fumble recoveries and one interception in its first six games.
STILL NEEDS WORK: False starts may be par for the course in loud stadiums on the road, but SMU had more than its share. Overall, SMU had nine penalties for 55 yards. One led to Southern Miss converting on third down, and a facemask penalty helped the Golden Eagles start a first-half drive at SMU's 31.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "All in all, despite everything, we had a shot. But we didn't execute." -- SMU quarterback J.J. McDermott, after a 27-3 loss to Southern Miss in which the Golden Eagles scored 17 second-half points, 14 in the fourth quarter.
--RB Zach Line was SMU's most consistent offensive weapon. He gashed Southern Miss on the draw play, rushing 22 times for 163 yards.
--WR Cole Beasley continues to be dangerous on the catch-and-run, picking up many of his 96 yards on seven catches after the reception.
--Sophomore WR Jeremy Johnson played in place of injured Darius Johnson, who was knocked out with bruised ribs late in the first quarter and could not return. He had five catches for 35 yards.
--LB Byron Brown (head) was taken to a local hospital, but was well enough to return home with the team
--WR Darius Johnson (bruised ribs) is probable