MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Curtis Steele ran for 178 yards and two touchdowns to help Memphis beat Southern Mississippi 36-30 on Saturday night.
Even though the Tigers (4-5, 2-3 Conference USA) used a variety trick plays with a third-string quarterback Brett Toney heading the offense, racking up 285 yards rushing -- 516 totaled yards on offense.
Starter Arkelon Hall and backup Will Hudgens were injured last week against East Carolina. Fourth-stringer Tyler Bass, who shared time with Toney, was injured in the third period on Saturday night, leaving Toney as the lone quarterback.
The Golden Eagles (2-6, 0-4) had a chance to drive for a winning touchdown, but an interception by Josh Weaver 1:31 left setup Steele's 22-yard touchdown to give Memphis a 36-24 lead. Steele, who finished with 29 carries, took a direct snap from the quarterback position for the score.
DeAndre Brown caught a 2-yard touchdown from Austin Davis as time expired for Southern Mississippi.
Davis completed 21-of-40 for 186 yards and two touchdowns on the night. He also rushed for 121 yards for the Golden Eagles. Damion Fletcher had 100 yards on 14 carries for the Golden Eagles.
The loss was the fifth straight for the Golden Eagles, and marked the first time they have lost four conference games in C-USA. It also assured Southern Mississippi of doing no better than .500 for the first time since 1993.
The Tigers drove 79 yards on seven plays, capped by a 14-yard touchdown pass from Toney to Carlos Singleton, who used his 6-foot-8 frame against the smaller defenders. The drive included a reverse option, had a receiver and running back taking direct snaps at quarterback and ran other misdirection plays.
On the next series, Bass came in the game, and on the third play, Memphis ran a hook-and-ladder, Bass throwing to Earnest Williams, who flipped to Steele, who carried the ball to the Southern Mississippi 11 for a 55-yard play. Bass swept right end for an 11-yard score to give the Tigers a 14-0 lead.
Bass connected with Singleton from 3 yards late in the half to put Memphis ahead 20-10 at halftime.
The Golden Eagles had 83 yards rushing in the first half, 76 of them by Davis. Fletcher, Conference USA's second-leading rusher with an average of 124.1, had only 9 yards in the first half.