Former West Jones standout Neil McLaurin (13) celebrates his first career touchdown at Southern Miss. Photo/James Pugh

Southern Miss’ hope for bowl eligibility will live another week. The Golden Eagles got back on the winning track Saturday in Hattiesburg, holding off rival Louisiana Tech, 21-20. 

Steven Anderson’s six-yard touchdown run and Briggs Bourgeois’ ensuing extra point with 6:02 left in the fourth quarter proved to be the game-winner for the Golden Eagles, who improved to 5-5 heading into next week’s regular season finale at UTEP. 

Louisiana Tech fell to 7-4 with the loss. Two of the Bulldogs’ three previous losses came against ranked competition (LSU and Mississippi State), and the other was against 9-1 UAB.

“It was a hard-fought win, and we knew it would be,” Southern Miss coach Jay Hopson said. “Louisiana Tech has our utmost respect. We knew it would be a tough game, but our kids kept battling. I couldn’t be prouder of a bunch of young men. They have kept fighting, scratching and clawing for 60 minutes.”

Steven Anderson scored the last touchdown as well as the first for Southern Miss on Saturday. The freshman plowed his way into the end zone midway through the first quarter to give the Golden Eagles an early 7-0 lead. 

Shortly after Louisiana Tech tied it, Southern Miss quarterback Jack Abraham found wide receiver Neil McLaurin over the middle, and the former West Jones standout did the rest, bowling over a Bulldog defender on the way to a 49-yard touchdown—his first as a Golden Eagle. 

“You put the ball in his hands and let him make the play,” Abraham said. “That’s my job. He [McLaurin] put that guy on the turf, and it was awesome to see him score.”

Abraham went 24-for-29 with 195 passing yards in his first game back from a knee bruise. Against Louisiana Tech, the redshirt sophomore split time with true freshman Tate Whatley, who started the previous two games in Abraham’s absence. Whatley finished Saturday’s game with 31 passing yards and seven carries for 15 yards. 

“I’m all for it,” Abraham said of the quarterback rotation. “He [Whatley] has done a good job these last few weeks and can get some good QB runs and some nice throws. I’m proud of him and our team.”

After Abraham’s lone touchdown of the day to McLaurin, Louisiana Tech answered with a 13-0 scoring run into the fourth quarter to take a 20-14 lead. With a 14-play, 85-yard touchdown drive that ended with Anderson’s second score of the day, Southern Miss regained control and the lead, 21-20. 

The Golden Eagles forced a punt on Louisiana Tech’s ensuing possession and were able to run out the clock to secure the win.