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Golden Eagles Defeat Mustangs, 27-3

Austin Davis drops back to pass.

Oct. 22, 2011

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HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The Southern Miss defense turned in its best performance in three years, helping the Golden Eagles to a 27-3 win over Southern Methodist in the weekend's marquee matchup in Conference USA.

The Golden Eagles (6-1) held the high-powered SMU offense to 330 yards and 14 first downs and forced two late turnovers to seal the win.

After trailing 13-3 at halftime, SMU (5-2) drove into Southern Miss territory twice in the second half but were turned away both times.

After being forced to punt on their first trip over midfield, Southern Miss cornerback Markese Wheaton intercepted a J.J. McDermott pass in the end zone for a touchback.

He picked off McDermott again on the very next drive and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown with just under seven minutes left.

"Our defense has a lot of confidence right now," Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora said. "I told (Wheaton) during the week he would at least have one pick tonight. He just happened to turn two of them."

Golden Eagle quarterback Austin Davis completed 27 of his 37 pass attempts for 266 yards and a touchdown.

His scoring pass came late in the first quarter on a 13-yard toss over the middle of the field to Kelvin Bolden.

Southern Miss running back Jamal Woodyard had a career day, rushing for 116 yards on 12 carries in place of starters Kendrick Hardy and Desmond Johnson, who sat out with injuries.

"It was 13-3 when we threw an interception in the end zone when we had an opportunity to make it 13-10," SMU coach June Jones said. "We just couldn't get the job done there. I think (McDermott) couldn't believe how wide open the guy was and it just hit off his hands."

With the win, Southern Miss moved into a tie with East Carolina (2-4) for the lead in Conference USA East at 2-1. SMU fell to 2-1 in C-USA play.

The Mustangs came into Saturday's game averaging 33.7 points a contest, but turned it over twice, punted twice and gave it away on downs in five second-half possessions.

McDermott finished with 173 yards.

"They played well up front and did a great job of taking the run away," McDermott said. "We had our opportunities, and I guess I just have to play better."

SMU running back Zach Line rushed for 163 yards, but couldn't get into the end zone on eight carries inside USM's 10-yard-line.

USM kicker Danny Hrapmann was good on field goals of 27 and 24 yards.

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