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Middle Tennessee rolls past Southern Miss 42-21

AP - Sports

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) -- Middle Tennessee returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the first half Saturday afternoon as the Blue Raiders posted a 42-21 victory over winless Southern Miss.

Linebacker T.T. Barber gave MTSU (7-4, 5-2 Conference USA) a 7-0 lead with a 24-yard interception return with 6:56 left in the first quarter.

Then, after tying the game for Southern Miss with an 11-yard scoring strike to Dominique Sullivan, Nick Mullens sailed a pass that MTSU safety Kevin Byard intercepted and returned 51 yards to put the Blue Raiders on top for good.

MTSU won its fourth consecutive game. The Golden Eagles (0-11, 0-7) extended the Football Bowl Series' longest losing streak to 23 games, including a string of 11 home losses.

Southern Miss moved the ball effectively in the first quarter, outgaining MTSU 147 yards to 37 yards total offense. But an opening drive came up barren when Corey Acosta's 29-yard field goal attempt clanked off the top of the left upright, and Mullens' miscues shifted momentum to the visitors' sideline.

After a slow start, MTSU's offense got in gear in the second quarter, with running back Shane Tucker scoring on a 3-yard run and quarterback Logan Kilgore finding receiver Tavarres Jefferson for a 16-yard touchdown for a 28-7 halftime lead.

Southern Miss got within 28-14 late in the third quarter on Mullens' 14-yard pass to running back Kendrick Hardy, but Tucker scored his second touchdown of the game on a 4-yard run and Corey Carmichael added a 32-yard touchdown run to rebuild MTSU's cushion.

Mullens threw a career-high third TD pass, a 13-yarder to receiver Tyre'oune Holmes, to wrap up the scoring with 2:33 to play

MTSU, which came into the game ranked third nationally with 28 takeaways, added another pair in the first half.

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