- Associated Press - Sunday, September 21, 2014

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) - With 6 seconds left in the game and an end zone crowd chanting ‘Block that kick,’ Southern Miss defensive end Dasman McCullum did just that.

McCullum swatted away the potential game-tying, extra-point attempt by Appalachian State placekicker Zach Matics as the Golden Eagles held on for a 21-20 victory Saturday night before 21,836 at Roberts Stadium.

“It’s like (USM) coach (Todd) Monken said at midfield, ‘I don’t know what to say,’” Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield said. “I don’t know if (Matics) didn’t get it high enough or what. It looked like it was a low kick.”

ASU’s Taylor Lamb threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Simms McElfresh in the back corner of end zone to get the Mountaineers within a point.

But Matics, who had a field goal blocked in the first quarter and missed two others, had his extra point attempt knocked away by McCullum, capping a frantic final 8 minutes.

“I knew (defensive tackle Rakeem) Nunez-Roches got pressure on the field goal block, so I told (him) to make the pressure, and that I was going to block it,” McCullum said. “I tried to jump as high as I could and just happened to stick my hand up at the right time.”

Appalachian State (1-2) had tied the game at 14 on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Lamb to Malachi Jones with 5:08 to play.

But Southern Miss (2-2) immediately responded, going 65 yards on six plays to take a 21-14 lead with 2:22 to play on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Nick Mullens to George Payne.

It was only the third catch of the sophomore’s career and his first this season, as Mullens caught the Mountaineers in an all-out blitz on third down and flipped the ball to a wide-open Payne down the left sideline.

“I don’t think Nick saw me at first, so I was waving my hand and making sure he saw me,” said Payne, who had been limited since suffering a shoulder injury in the season opener. “It was a perfect call by the coaches. The safety and linebacker blitzed, so I was left wide open. I do not think anyone was within 10 yards of me.”

Payne scored on runs of 15- and 3-yards in the first half to give the Golden Eagles a 14-7 halftime lead.

“It was good to have him back,” Monken said. “We just haven’t had him, but he worked himself back and I am happy to have him back.”

Running back Marcus Cox, who rushed for a game-high 119 yards on 22 carries, scored on a 5-yard run in the second quarter.

Lamb, in his first career start, completed 28 of 40 passes for 264 yards. The freshman threw two touchdowns with two interceptions.

Mullens completed 22 of 35 passes for 268 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

Southern Miss, which managed just one victory in 24 games during the 2012 and 2013 season, picked up its second home win of the year and broke even on its non-conference schedule.

Appalachian State, playing its first year as a Football Bowl Subdivision member, outgained the Golden Eagles 455 total yards to 329 total, ripped off 26 more snaps and had nearly a 12-minute advantage in time of possession.

But Matics missed field goals of 43 yards and 42 yards and had 36-yarder blocked by USM defensive end Will Freeman. The Mountaineers also lost a red-zone opportunity when McCullum stripped Cox of the ball at the USM 7-yard line on Appalachian State’s first play following a Mullens’ interception.

“We had 455 yards and moved the ball, but when we got down to the red zone, we were 3-for-5,” Satterfield said. “The bad one was when we got down to the 2-yard line and got zero points. Two penalties and a tackle-for-loss moved us back and then we got the field goal blocked (in the first quarter). Then, we got the extra point blocked.

“That’s hard.”

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