David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer 644d

Allenzae Staggers claims more Southern Miss records at New Orleans Bowl

Allenzae Staggers notched at least 100 receiving yards just twice this season -- for the first- and third-biggest outings in Southern Miss' football history.

The junior college transfer capped his debut season with the Golden Eagles by setting an R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl record: 230 receiving yards in a 28-21 win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday.

Staggers had already smashed Southern Miss' single-game receiving record by totaling 292 yards on six catches against Rice earlier this season. Now the junior also owns the Golden Eagles' record for receiving yards in a bowl game, with his total on Saturday representing just the fifth time in school history that a player posted at least 200 receiving yards.

Staggers' performance was the highlight of a sloppy win for Southern Miss (7-6) -- a game that saw the Golden Eagles commit 131 yards' worth of penalties and turn the ball over twice. The turnovers led to a pair of short touchdown drives by the Ragin' Cajuns, allowing them to stay within striking distance in a game during which they otherwise struggled to sustain drives.

Louisiana-Lafayette (6-7) totaled just 252 yards of total offense, 106 of which came from senior running back Elijah McGuire on 99 rushing yards and seven receiving yards.

LSU transfer Anthony Jennings struggled throughout the night for the Cajuns, completing 8 of 20 passes for 95 yards and tossing an interception. Jennings did run effectively, however, twice plowing into the end zone for touchdowns that pulled the Cajuns within a score.

Jennings' second touchdown cut the Golden Eagles lead to 28-21 with 5:10 to play, and the Cajuns forced a punt to earn one last chance to tie the score. They took over at their own 18 with 2:02 remaining, but their plodding final drive stalled at midfield, where Jennings' fourth-down pass to Keenan Barnes sailed high and incomplete.

That helped the Golden Eagles clinch a second straight winning season after the program hit rock bottom only a few seasons back.

The Golden Eagles were mired in a 23-game losing streak before finally ending the 2013 season with a victory. Over a three-year period from 2012 and 2014, the program won just four games in 36 tries.

But after former Southern Miss coach Todd Monken led them out of the wilderness with a 9-5 record and Conference USA Western Division title last season, successor Jay Hopson kept them above .500 for a second straight year by winning the last two games of the season.

Staggers and senior quarterback Nick Mullens hooked up 11 times, including a 5-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter that put the Golden Eagles up 21-14 -- a lead Southern Miss would not relinquish the rest of the way.

Staggers had 202 receiving yards at halftime, already enough to claim the New Orleans Bowl record. However, he made just four catches for 28 yards after halftime, preventing him from threatening the FBS record for receiving yards in a bowl game (308 yards by Hawaii's Jason Rivers in 2006).

Mullens also claimed a Southern Miss bowl record by passing for 346 yards on Saturday, while also adding two touchdowns and an interception. Mullens also set a school single-game record against Rice earlier this season by passing for 591 yards in that 44-28 win.

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