Jan. 11, 2012
The 2011 Southern Miss football season was a season for the record books including the most wins in school history, a Conference USA championship, and ending with a Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl victory.
SouthernMiss.com will be showcasing the top 11 highlights of the 2011 football season over the next four weeks with the #1 highlight being released on Wednesday, February 1st, national signing day.
Many magical moments resonate in Golden Eagle fans' minds from this past season that encompass blocked punts returned for touchdowns to interceptions returned for scores. The plays were endless. This is a look back at some of the things that happened during the season that might not necessarily be on one's highlight reel but turned into being a big part of the outcome of that particular game.
It starts with the opening game of the season against eventual Western Athletic Conference champion Louisiana Tech. In a huge downpour for most of the game and playing with a wet field, redshirt freshman Corey Acosta came in to hit two clutch fourth-quarter field goals, from 25 and 42 yards, in place of senior All-American Danny Hrapmann who suffered from leg cramps during the contest. Hrapmann returned to kick the game-winning field goal with 2:32 remaining from 49 yards in a swirling wind with rain.
It was Hrapmann again who came up with the big play three games later at Virginia. Facing 4th-and-15 at the USM 8, Hrapmann came into punt for the Golden Eagles. Instead of punting, he took off unabated on the right side and went up the sideline for 31 yards. The Golden Eagles went on to complete a 14-play, 87-yard drive to put them up 14-13 and they never trailed again in the contest. Hrapmann would also pull off that trick at the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl against Nevada.
The next week, versus Rice, the game's tone was decided on the first play from scrimmage. After kicking off to the visiting Owls, Rice had the ball to start the game on their own 22. The Owls ran a running play up the middle in which junior Jamie Collins lifted Sam McGuffie in the air and threw him for an eight-yard loss. The Golden Eagles limited the visitors to 33 yards rushing and just a total offensive output of 229. In the following game, everyone remembers the block field goal that Marquese Wheaton returned for a 79-yard touchdown after holding them inside the 10, but the goal-line the next possession, keeping the Midshipmen at bay three times at the one which turned into another Golden Eagle touchdown got the Golden Eagles going in the contest.
Several weeks later, the Golden Eagles had to hold off a late charge from the Knights of UCF, thwarting a two-point conversion with no time left to hold on for a one-point victory. Southern Miss had scored with 5:52 left in the game on a four-yard strike to freshman Chris Briggs. The big play, though, was the two-point conversion on Austin Davis' lateral to Lamar Holmes across the field that gave Southern Miss the seven-point cushion.
These are just a sample of those unheralded big plays in a 12-win season. It is a certainty that Golden Eagle fans will have others because it is those moments which help make up such a wonderful season.
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