MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) — Backup quarterback Mike DeLiello ran for 77 yards and a pair of touchdowns and the Middle Tennessee defense had five takeaways as the Blue Raiders defeated Southern Mississippi 35-10 on Saturday.
In addition to DeLiello's touchdown runs of 6 and 14 yards, Middle Tennessee (4-4, 2-2 Conference USA) scored off a blocked punt, a fumble recovery and an interception. The Blue Raiders entered the game tied with Iowa for the national lead with 20 forced turnovers.
DeLiello, who came on in the first quarter for the injured Chase Cunningham (lower body), completed eight of 12 passes for 78 yards. DeLiello had attempted just three passes this season. Trailing 7-0, DeLiello converted a fourth-down pass to DJ England-Chisolm on the way to his 6-yard TD run to knot the score at 7-7.
Less than a minute later, Tra Fluellen scooted 18 yards to score after a blocked punt and Middle Tennessee led the rest of the way. Jordan Branch added a 29-yard return of a fumble recovery as the Blue Raiders led 21-7 at halftime.
DeLiello added a second touchdown and DQ Thomas a 43-yard interception return for a TD in the second half.
Jake Lange threw for 166 yards and a touchdown but was intercepted twice and sacked seven times for Southern Miss (1-7, 0-4). Frank Gore carried 20 times for 83 yards.
The disappearance of Conference USA continued as Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky were reported to be under consideration as the Mid-American Conference considers expansion.
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