By: Paul Letlow/ULM Athletics

MONROE, La. – ULM hung around into the final quarter, but Southern Miss had the finishing touch Saturday at Malone Stadium.

On a wet and dreary day, the Golden Eagles achieved bowl eligibility with a 20-10 win over the Warhawks in ULM’s season finale.

“We’re in every game,” ULM coach Terry Bowden said. “There’s nobody in this conference we can’t play with. We’re not yet at the point where we’re better or beating them, but we’re playing with everybody.”

Statistically, the Golden Eagles (6-6, 4-4 Sun Belt) were dominant, yet there was ULM (4-8, 3-5 Sun Belt) tied at 10-10 heading into the fourth quarter. But with a field goal, a blocked punt and a touchdown run by running back Frank Gore Jr., USM finally found some breathing room.

“They had a few more bullets in their gun,” Bowden said. “I told our team, we just blinked. They didn’t.”

Gore ran for a career-high 199 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, part of an offense that gained 448 yards overall with 265 on the ground. Defensively, USM limited ULM to 231 yards and 13 first downs, registered four sacks and 13 tackles for losses. The Warhawks ran 33 times for 109 yards, averaging 3.3 yards per attempt.

“I personally think it started with the running game, both sides,” Bowden said. “We could not run the football and they consistently ran the football. When we couldn’t run it, we were always in a passing situation and they were always in a blitz situation. We’re playing into their hands.”

Quarterback Chandler Rogers completed 17-of-27 passes for 122 yards and one touchdown while running for 47 yards on 14 attempts. Tyrone Howell made four catches for 43 yards.

Linebacker Michael Batton led ULM’s defense with 10 tackles. In his final game at ULM, linebacker Zack Woodard made nine stops.

Southern Miss took the game’s opening kickoff and scored on a five-play, 75-yard drive to go ahead 7-0. Quarterback Trey Lowe III found Jakarius Caston for a 29-yard touchdown pass with 12:41 left in the first.

The Golden Eagles led 10-0 with 4:41 to play in the first after Briggs Bourgeois kicked a 20-yard field goal. USM drove 69 yards in 11 plays for the score.

The Warhawks cut the lead to 10-7 on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Rogers to Andrew Henry, who caught the middle screen and weaved his way through the defense. Henry’s second career touchdown reception capped a 12-play, 73-yard drive that ULM started in the first quarter and finished with 13:26 left in the second.

Southern Miss missed out on a scoring opportunity near the end of the half as time expired with the Golden Eagles at the ULM 1. Tight end Cole Cavallo slipped and fell at the 1 after catching a pass from Lowe and USM was unable to stop the clock in time to run another play.

Unable to get much going on the slick turf, the Warhawks were limited to 82 yards and five first downs during the first half. Rogers completed 7-of-10 passes for 61 yards and one touchdown. ULM rushed for just 21 yards on 12 attempts.

Gore rushed for 113 yards on 14 carries in the first half, providing a chunk of his USM’s 273 offensive yards.

“It was pretty much an even ball game,” Bowden said. “But they were able to control the football most of the time.”

After ULM went three-and-out with the second-half kickoff, the Golden Eagles were stuffed on fourth down at the Warhawks’ 32.

Calum Sutherland’s 37-yard field goal tied the game at 10-10 with 5:24 remaining in the third quarter. A 34-yard run by Rogers to the USM 33 was the pivotal play on ULM’s nine-play, 49-yard drive.

As the third quarter was ending, the Golden Eagles flipped the field with a 59-yard pass from Lowe to Latreal Jones, who raced to the ULM 30. However, the Warhawks held tight in the red zone and limited USM to a 24-yard field goal by Bourgeois. The Golden Eagles led 13-10 with 12:30 remaining after an eight-play, 82-yard drive.

USM’s Brenan Toles blocked Devyn McCormick’s punt with 7:41 left in the game and the Eagles recovered at the ULM 33. One play later, Gore rumbled 33 yards for a touchdown to increase the margin to 20-10 with 7:32 to go.

“We were within three and so you’re still in the game, but they blocked a punt and then put us down 10 points,” Bowden said. “We still tried to get back in the game but that made it a lot harder.”