HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) — It looked as if the nation's only winless team would finally get over the hump, but Autrey Golden and Texas-El Paso had other plans Saturday night.
Golden returned a fourth-quarter kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and the Miner defense held when it counted most to propel UTEP past Southern Mississippi 34-33 on a wild senior night in Hattiesburg.
After Golden's big return gave the Miners (3-8, 2-5 in Conference USA) a 34-27 lead, Southern Mississippi (0-11, 0-7) responded with an 86-yard drive that cut the lead to one with 2:48 left. Southern Mississippi coach Ellis Johnson opted for a two-point conversion attempt, but Arsenio Favor's pass was intercepted by Demarcus Kizzie in the end zone.
Favor stepped forward as if he was going to run, then stumbled backward under pressure and tried to connect with receiver Justin Sims on a crossing route. He never saw the 5-foot-9, 180-pound freshman safety, and threw it right to him.
After finishing 12-2 a year ago, Southern Miss is 0-11 for the first time in school history and dropped all of its home games for the first time since 1977.
The Miners converted a pair of first downs on the final drive to salt the game away.
"It was an exciting game," UTEP coach Mike Price said. "It kept getting more exciting as it went on. We did everything to break their will but they didn't break, they didn't quit. They played hard and you have to give them credit, but we played hard when we needed to and this is a great victory for us."
UTEP quarterback Blaire Sullivan finished with 155 yards on 9-of-15 passing and rushed for 98 yards and a score. Nathan Jeffery added 76 yards on the ground, including touchdown runs of one and three yards.