Southern Miss Football Bowl History
EL PASO, Texas - Mississippi Southern made its first bowl appearance here in El Paso, Texas, but it would be the College of the Pacific who would leave Texas as the winner, 26-77. Pacific scored the first points of the game and never looked back. Trailing 13-00 at the half, MSC received the kickoff and then fumbled the ball on the very next play, resulting in a Tiger touchdown. Coach Pie Vann 'ssquad would lose four fumbles on the day. Mississippi Southern 'sonly score came on a 73-yyard march with little time remaining. Hugh Laurin Pepper scored on a two-yard run, and Peanuts Davenport kicked the extra point. Newspaper reports from the day after the game indicate that defensive tackle J.T. Shepard was the defensive standout for the Southerners. He blocked a punt and recovered it, as well as making some key tackles.
EL PASO,Texas - Although it was the second consecutive trip to the Sun Bowl for the Southerners,the results were the same as the UTEP quarterback and Sun Bowl MVP Dick Shinaut threw for two touchdowns,booted a 14-yard field goal, and led the Miners to a 47-20 victory over the Southerners.The Miners struck early,recovering a fumble in the MSC end zone for the first score.UTEP built up a 30-7 halftime lead.The MSC first score came on a Billy Jarrell 13-yard pass to Tommie Wood.The other MSC score came on a 13-yard run by Fred Smallwood in the third quarter.
EL PASO, Texas - Mississippi Southern Coach Pie Vann called this 20-13 loss to West Texas State "my toughest loss ever," although Vann would go on to coach 11 years. The Southerners jumped out to an early 13-0 lead at halftime and were threatening early in the third quarter when the Buffaloes' defensive back Ron Mills returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown to ignite West Texas State. J.C.Arban scored MSC 's first touchdown on a 51-yard Statue of Liberty play,and Bobby Hughes threw a 53-yard bomb to Jerry Taylor for Mississippi Southern's other score. But it was not enough,as Mills scored on a two-yard romp,and quarterback Bubba Hillman scampered 19 yards for the other score, stealing victory away from Mississippi Southern. The following day the Orlando Sentinel called the game the "best in 11 years." Hamp Cook
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ORLAND, Fla. - Mississippi Southern had every opportunity in the world to win the 12th Annual Tangerine Bowl, but East Texas State found a way to postpone an MSC Bowl victory, defeating the Southerners 10-99. The Lions scored the first touchdown of the game when Garry Berry went in from the three-yard line. MSC quarterback George Sekul then engineered a drive that resulted in his scoring on a one-yard plunge. Before the half ended, the Lions center snapped the ball over the punter's head and out of the end zone, giving Coach Pie Vann's club a 9-7 halftime lead. With 7:47 left in the game, East Texas State's Neal Hinson connected on a 31-yyard field goal that was the eventual winning score. Southern's Curry Juneau was cited for his outstanding defensive play.
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SHREVEPORT, La. - Golden Eagle fans would have to wait until USM's fifth bowl appearance before they could claim a victory. The Eagles' Winston Walker hit a 36-yard field goal, and Clemon Terrell scored on a 14-yard run in the first quarter. USM then fell behind 14-10 late in the third quarter. With just 1:17 remaining,USM's Mike Woodard scored on a one-yard plunge to ensure a 16-14 Golden Eagle victory.Jerald Baylis was named the defensive MVP.
ORLANDO, Fla. - Missouri got four field goals from Bob Lucchesi and a three-yard touchdown run from Bobby Meyer on their way to a 19-17 victory over USM. Head Coach Bobby Collins' squad got a first half field goal by Steve Clark,but it was all the Eagles could manage. Sammy Winder scored on a 4-yard run to bring the score closer at 13-10.USM's only other score was a 74-yard bomb from David Seller to Louis Lipps late in the game.The Eagles' Bruce Miller was the game's defensive MVP.
SHREVEPORT, La. - This game could be renamed "The James Henry Show." The USM defensive back/punt returner scored two second half touchdowns on punt returns of 65-and 45-yards. For his efforts, he took home both the offensive and defensive game MVP honors. USM's Shelton Gandy also turned in a solid performance,scoring two touchdowns and putting UTEP completely out of the game.For the Golden Eagles it was only the second bowl win in school history.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The Golden Eagles made the trip to nearby Birmingham, Alabama, for their first appearance in the All American Bowl. Just two weeks earlier, USM hired former Golden Eagle quarterback Jeff Bower to direct the program. USM quarterback Brett Favre threw for 341 yards and two touchdowns, but it would not be enough, as North Carolina State went on to a 31-227 victory. For the Eagles, freshman receiver Mark Montgomery caught two Favre passes for touchdowns, while running backs Michael Welch and Tony Smith added touchdowns on the ground.
MEMPHIS,Tenn. - Southern Miss capped off an amazing season by claiming a 41-7 victory over Big East opponent Pittsburgh in the Liberty Bowl before a crowd of 50,209 mostly Golden Eagle fans. The win ended USM 's season at 9-3,which capped off a season that saw the Golden Eagles earn a second consecutive Conference USA championship.The game was a showcase for both the USM offense and defense.Sherrod Gideon was named the game's Most Valuable Player after hauling in three touchdown passes from the arm of quarterback Lee Roberts. No.22 Southern Miss combined the passing of Roberts to Gideon for three touchdowns with three defensive TDs for the 41-7 win.On a mission after being shut out of the bowl picture last year despite an 8-3 record,the Eagles capped it off with the Liberty Bowl victory and a perfect season in Conference USA. The 34-point margin of victory was the widest in the bowl's history, surpassing a pair of 30-point differences from the 1976 and 1994 contests.
BOISE, Idaho - Leading 21-7 with a 1st and 10 at the Idaho 38 yard line and 8:13 left in the first half, Southern Miss appeared well on its way to a second straight bowl victory. However, the Golden Eagles did not convert that scoring opportunity, and, before the first half ended, the Vandals scored three times to take a 28-21 lead into the locker room before a crowd of 19,664 at the Humanitarian Bowl. The two teams fought to a 14-14 standoff in the second half,though Southern Miss did tie the score at 35 with 6:37 left in the game,and,after Idaho scored to take a 42-35 lead, the Golden Eagles had one final opportunity to tie the game but moved as far as their own 40 yard line before losing a fumble that allowed the Vandals to run out the clock. Several Golden Eagle players had big games, including freshman running back Derrick Nix, who capped his first season with a 29-carry, 122-yard performance; quarterback Lee Roberts, who ended his college career with a 30-of-51 passing performance that netted 342 yards and a pair of touchdowns; and junior wideout Sherrod Gideon, who caught both Roberts TDs and finished with 12 catches for 117 yards. Roberts earned game MVP honors for his performance.Southern Miss won the rushing and passing yardage battles with a 170-153 edge in rushing and a solid 362-291 margin in passing. However, the Golden Eagles also lost five of six fumbles, while managing to force three Idaho fumbles, all recovered by USM.
MEMPHIS,Tenn. - The Southern Miss defense,which had been regarded as one of the best in school history all season long, made a strong argument for that case as it held Colorado State to only 268 total yards, its second-lowest of the season, in a hard-fought 23-17 win. The win was the second Liberty Bowl championship for the Golden Eagles in three years.In 1997, Southern Miss defeated Pittsburgh 41-7. Unlike 1997, when the Golden Eagle offense put on an offensive clinic, the Southern Miss offense struggled,but was rescued by the stingy play of the Golden Eagle defense.Southern Miss managed only 187 yards, but the Golden Eagle defense held when it counted most.In the second half,USM held Colorado State scoreless despite being on the field for 19 minutes. After the game, a jubilant Jeff Bower praised his defense. "I'm officially declaring this the best Southern Miss defense ever," said Bower.
MOBILE, Ala. - In a game that featured the top two defenses in the nation, it was the Southern Miss offense that took center stage in the end. Down 21-14 entering the fourth quarter, the Golden Eagles scored two touchdowns on the nation 'stop defense in the final frame, converting on quarterback Jeff Kelly's touchdown passes of 56 and 29 yards, respectively. The final score came with :08 seconds left in the game, as Southern Miss wide receiver Kenneth Johnson grabbed a 29-yyard touchdown pass to lift the Golden Eagles to the 28-221 victory over No. 13 TCU in the 2000 GMAC Mobile Alabama Bowl. Earlier in the fourth, Kelly connected with LeRoy Handy for a 56-yyard scoring strike with 7:24 remaining. The win was Southern Miss' third bowl victory in four seasons and also marked the fifth-straight year that the team finished with seven or more victories in a season. The Golden Eagles defense, ranked second in the nation, held NCAA-leading rusher and Heisman Trophy finalist LaDainian Tomlinson to a season-llow 118 yards on the ground. Handy finished as the bowl 'sOffensive MVP after grabbing five receptions for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Leo Barnes, who returned an interception 50 yards for a score in the first quarter, earned Defensive MVP honors.
HOUSTON, Texas - For three-and-a-half quarters Southern Miss challenged Oklahoma State, but the Cowboys overtook the Golden Eagles in the final half of the fourth quarter to win, 33-23,in the third annual Houston Bowl. Rashaun Woods caught nine catches for 164 yards and a touchdown to lead OSU and collected Houston Bowl Most Valuable Player honors. Dustin Almond came in on the Golden Eagles' second drive of the game and remained in the contest as Southern Miss' quarterback.He finished the game completing 11-of-27 passes for 173 yards and rushing 17 times for 54 yards and one touchdown. James Walley led the Golden Eagles with 21 carries for 74 yards and one touchdown. Chris Johnson led Southern Miss in receiving with five catches for 67 yards.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The 2003 AXA Liberty Bowl was deemed the battle of champions, and in the end, it was just that - at least on the defensive side of the ball. Utah did just enough on offense to take a 17-0 victory over Southern Miss in a tough, defensive clash at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. The defenses were so good that the two teams managed to convert only 4-of-31 third down attempts,two by each team. Utah was averaging 381 yards a game coming in but netted only 228 against the Golden Eagle defense, and Southern Miss had just 213 yards,as compared to the 334 yards per game prior to the game. The game also marked the first time that Southern Miss had been shut out since the 1995 season, when the team fell 42-0 to Tennessee. The Utes' offensive total included 104 yards on the ground. Running back Brandon Warfield paced Utah with a game-high 91 yards and one touchdown. The Golden Eagles had a chance to get on the board first in the opening quarter,but Darren McCaleb's 47-yard field goal attempt fell short,keeping the game scoreless at the 9:40 mark. Running back Anthony Harris led Southern Miss with 70 yards on 14 carries,while Dustin Almond finished with 122 yards on 11-of-13 passing. Senior All-American linebacker Rod Davis ended his decorated Southern Miss career with a game-high 16 tackles, including eight solos, and was named the Golden Eagles' Defensive Player of the Game. He became the school's all-time leader in total tackles, notching 526 in his career.
NEW ORLEANS, La. - Southern Miss led from start to finish and cruised to a 31-110 victory over North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome. The Golden Eagles opened with a 37-yard Dustin Almond to Otho Graves scoring combination, and then tacked on to that lead with a 1-yard score by Almond. In the second quarter, North Texas answered with a 24-yard field goal from Nick Bazaldua, but the Golden Eagles extended its lead on Darren McCaleb's 45-yard field goal second before the half. After a scoreless third quarter, Southern Miss all but put the game away with a pair of touchdowns - Michael Boley's 62-yard interception return and a 1-yard scoring run by Sherron Moore. North Texas finished the scoring with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Scott Hall to Johnny Quinn with one second remaining, ending the game, 31-10. Boley was named the 2004 Wyndham New Orleans Bowl MVP, finishing the game with eight tackles,three tackles for loss and two sacks. Almond finished with 247 passing yards, his second highest total of the season, as he completed 16-of-30 attempts, while Anthony Harris finished with 14 carries for 104 yards. Antwon Courington led the receivers with five catches for 57 yards, and Graves led the team with 58 receiving yards on three catches. Jamario Thomas, the leading rusher in the nation entering the game, finished with 92 rushing yards, Quinn finished with eight catches for 92 yards, and Hall fin- ished with 134 passing yards for North Texas.
Lafayette, La. - Career-high performances from Cody Hull and Shawn Nelson, the 2005 New Orleans Bowl MVP, helped Southern Miss earn a 31-119 victory over Arkansas State. Nelson finished with a team-high six catches for 121 yards and two. His 121 yards also set a Southern Miss bowl record, surpassing Sherrod Gideon's 117-yard total in the Humanitarian Bowl vs. Idaho in 1998. Hull finished with a career-high 37 carries for 161 yards, both New Orleans Bowl and Southern Miss bowl records. Hull'stotals surpassed Derrick Nix's 29 carries against Idaho in the 1998 Humanitarian Bowl and a 124 rushing yard performance by Shelton Gandy against UTEP in the 1988 Independence Bowl. After a scoreless first quarter,the Golden Eagles took the first lead of the game on a 31-yard field goal by Darren McCaleb.Arkansas State then answered with a 44-yard field goal from Eric Neihouse,knotting the game at 3-3 with 6:57 to play before halftime. Southern Miss scored on its ensuing drive, on a Cole Mason 5-yard touchdown run,but the lead was short-lived as the Indians added a four-yard run by Nick Noce with six seconds remaining before the half,tying the game, 10-10. Southern Miss retook the lead in the third quarter on a 1-yard run by Hull, but Noce found Manuel Burton for a two-yard touchdown, knotting the game with 8:51 remaining in the third quarter. The Golden Eagles then took the lead for good on the next drive, when Almond and Nelson connected on a 29-yard touchdown. Arkansas State added a a safety following a bad snal on a punt attempt, but Almond found Nelson for a six-yard touchdown, with 8:22 remaining, to make the final margin of victory. Almond finished with 253 passing yards,completing 17-of-32 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns.
Mobile, Ala. - Southern Miss scored three second-quarter touchdowns to defeat Mid-American Conference foe Ohio, 28-77, in the EighthAnnual MAC Bowl at Ladd-PP Stadium.
After a scoreless opening quarter, true freshman Tory Harrison got the Golden Eagles on the scoreboard with a 43-yard rushing touchdown with 8:33 left in the period. It was the longest rushing touchdown of the year for Southern Miss as his score ended an eight-play, 90-yard drive. Fellow freshman Damion Fletcher added a two-yard run for a score with :03 remaining before halftime to give the Golden Eagles an insurmountable advantage. Fletcher, he game's most valuable player, finished the contest with 8 yards on 20 arries to go along with three receptions for 8 yards. Then, it as he defense's turn to get in on the scoring barrage right before he half. The game's defensive most aluable player, James Denley, picked off a Brad Bower pass and returned it 18 yards for a score to complete the Golden Eagles second-qquarter scoring with 1:13 to play. The 21 points tied a season-high for a quarter with which they did two other times during he ear. It also marked the seventh non-offensive touchdown or Southern Miss furing the campaign he most in eason in the Jeff Bower era.
The offense then put the game out of reach to start the third quarter as he Golden Eagles took the opening kickoff and put together a drive that panned 80 yards and 17 plays. More importantly, he drive consumed 5:55 of he game clock. Fletcher then ended he drive with nine-yard run for his second score of the game.
Junior quarterback Jeremy Young helped keep he drive alive with 7-yard pass to Anthony Perine on 3rd-and-10. Young ended he game as the offensive most valuable player, as he finished the day with 160 yards passing on 4-of-22 attempts and an interception.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Ben Mauk completed 30-of-552 passes for 334 yards and four scores as 20th-rranked Cincinnati collected a 31-21 victory over Southern Miss in the 2nd annual Papajohns.com Bowl at Legion Field in Birmingham.
DeAngelo Smith led an opportunistic Bearcats defense, intercepting Southern Miss quarterback Jeremy Young three times. Dominick Goodman hauled in seven passes - including two touchdowns - for 95 yards and Connor Barwin and Antwuan Giddens also finished with seven receptions each. Mauk was intercepted three times, but also rushed for 41 yards.
Young was 18-for-32 for 122 yards passing with a pair of touchdowns in addition to the three picks. The senior also rushed for 55 yards and a score in his final collegiate outing.
Damion Fletcher carried 29 times for 155 yards but the Golden Eagles were unable to generate any offense on their final two scoring opportunities and had a two-game win streak snapped in their last game under longtime head coach Jeff Bower.
Down 31-114 following a pair of Cincinnati scores late in the third quarter, Southern Miss didn't go away, driving 76 yards to pull back within 10 points. Young hit Chris Johnson over the middle for a five-yyard TD to complete the drive with 9:37 remaining.
The Eagles then attempted an onside kick, and momentarily appeared to have recovered, but Barwin emerged with the ball, positioning the Bearcats in USM territory. The Southern Miss defense held, but on the fol- lowing series Fletcher was stopped short of converting a 4th-and-1 from the 14, seemingly killing the team's comeback chances.
Mauk threw an interception in the end zone, giving the Eagles one final opportunity,but on 4th-and-22 from the 32,Young was intercepted by Smith for the third time on the day, stifling the final threat.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - After winning its previous four games to become bowl eligible, Southern Mississippi needed one last rally to extend its streak of seasons without a losing record to 15.
Michael McGee blocked a potential game-tying field goal attempt in overtime, lifting Southern Mississippi to a 30-27 comeback victory over Troy in the New Orleans Bowl on Sunday night.
Troy held Southern Miss to Britt Barefoot's 39-yard field goal on the first possession of OT, but that wound up being enough for the Golden Eagles to win their third New Orleans Bowl in as many appearances.
McGee knifed in from the left end, diving as he smothered Sam Glusman's 28-yard kick to clinch the win.
"I was trying my best to get there and by the time I got 3 yards away from the ball, I didn't see nobody trying to block down on me, so I just dove and gave it my all," McGee said.
Southern Miss (7-6) finished the season with a five-game winning streak.
"I just can't say how proud I am of this whole football team," first-year Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora said. "They were probably the only ones out there that really believed we would get it done. They never gave up, they believed in the coaches. ... They grew and they became a heck of a football team."
Kicker Britt Barefoot, right, and tight end Shawn Nelson, center, react after his field goal in overtime.
The Trojans (8-5), winners of the Sun Belt Conference, led 27-17 after Jerrel Jernigan's 6-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter.
Southern Miss began its comeback when Austin Davis rolled out on fourth-and-2 and lofted a 35-yard touchdown to tight end Jonathan Massey with 7:20 left in regulation.
"The day I took the job I said we were going to attack ... and we've had that philosophy all year," Fedora said. "That's a play we've worked and executed numerous times in practice and that's not the first time we've hit that play in a game so I don't think it was that big of a risk to be honest."
Barefoot tied it with his 46-yard field goal with 2:50 to go.
Southern Miss was forced to play most of the game without leading receiver DeAndre Brown, who broke his left leg on an awkward landing in the end zone after his attempt at a leaping catch was batten down in the first quarter. Only one series earlier, Brown had set a single-season school record for receptions with 67 on a 9-yard catch.
Without his top target, Davis completed 20 of 34 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns, including a 64-yard scoring pass to New Orleans native Gerald Baptiste on a flea flicker in the first quarter.
"I just can't say how proud I am of this whole football team. They were probably the only ones out there that really believed we would get it done. They never gave up, they believed in the coaches." Larry Fedora
Southern Miss career rushing leader Damion Fletcher carried 14 times for 78 yards and a touchdown on an 8-yard end run. Fletcher also caught three passes for 23 yards.
Baptiste finished with five catches for 88 yards.
Troy's Levi Brown was 26-of-43 for 255 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown pass to Kennard Burton. Troy took the early lead on Jorrick Calvin's 17-yard fumble return and never trailed until overtime.
"We played LSU earlier this year and blew a 28-point lead. After that, we knew nothing's in hand until the game's over," Brown said. "I expected it to be a close game and I was thrilled to be up 10 in the fourth, but we couldn't finish it."
Jernigan had nine catches for 65 yards, breaking a 40-year-old Troy record for single-season receptions. He finished with 77 catches on the year, passing Danny Grant, who caught 72 passes in 1968.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Dwight Dasher ran for a bowl-record 201 yards and two touchdowns and threw two scoring passes to lead Middle Tennessee to a 42-32 victory over Southern Miss in the New Orleans Bowl on Sunday night.
Dasher completed 15 of 25 for 162 yards and ran 26 times. He finished the season with 1,175 yards rushing. His rushing total for the game was the most for a quarterback in a bowl game, breaking the old mark of 200 yards set by Vince Young in the 2006 Rose Bowl.
Middle Tennessee (10-3), playing in the second bowl game in school history, concluded its best season since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1999 with a seven-game winning streak and its first bowl victory.
Southern Miss (7-6) was playing in its eighth straight bowl game and 12th in the last 13 seasons. The Golden Eagles had won their three previous New Orleans Bowls, including an overtime win against Troy last season.
Southern Miss running back Damion Fletcher ran for 78 yards and became the ninth player in major college football to reach 1,000 in all four seasons. He did it despite a hamstring injury that caused him to sit out one game this season.
Martevious Young completed 18 of 34 for 271 yards and three touchdowns for the Golden Eagles. He was intercepted twice.
Southern Miss started strong, scoring on their first possession as Tory Harrison rushed for a 2-yard touchdown. On their second possession the Golden Eagles stretched their lead to 14-0 on a 24-yard reception by DeAndre Brown.
The Blue Raiders pulled even in the second quarter on an 11-yard reception by Garrett Anders, and--after Alex Suber intercepted Young on the Southern Miss 12--a 9-yard TD catch by Shane Blissard.
Southern Miss held a 17-14 edge at halftime thanks to Daniel Hrapmann's 20-yard field goal as time expired.
Dasher opened the third quarter with a 35-yard touchdown run. When Dasher left briefly with an ankle injury, Brent Burnette capped 76-yard scoring drive with a 23-yard TD pass to Chris McClover.
Hrapmann hit a 38-yard field goal to cut the Blue Raiders lead to 28-20 at the end of three quarters.
Southern Miss had a chance to tie it early in the fourth, making it 28-26 on Brown's 7-yard TD reception, but the 2-point conversion failed.
Benjamin Cunningham and Dasher ran for touchdowns to make it 42-26 for Middle Tennessee.
USM added a final score with 27 seconds.
The Blue Raiders' victory gives the Sun Belt Conference three victories against Conference USA in the last four New Orleans Bowls.
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - Justin Burke threw for a pair touchdowns and Jeremy Wright scored on a 95-yard kickoff return Tuesday night to help Louisville beat former Conference USA rival Southern Mississippi 31-28 in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl.
Burke tossed scoring passes to 11 yards to Cameron Graham and 10 yards to Josh Chichester while the Cardinals (7-6) erased a 14-point first-half deficit, then produced a go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter.
Austin Davis threw 205 yards and two touchdowns to become Southern Mississippi's career TD pass leader, moving ahead of Brett Favre and Lee Roberts in the Golden Eagles record book with 53 in three seasons.
The Southern Miss quarterback also scored on a 17-yard reception from receiver Quentin Pierce.
Wright's long kickoff return made it 28-all early in the fourth quarter. Chris Philpott's 36-yard field goal gave the Cardinals their first lead with 6:30 remaining.
Davis completed 19 of 32 passes, including TD throws of 32 yards to Pierce and 8 yards to Zeke Walters for the Golden Eagles (8-5).
In addition to becoming the Southern Miss career TD pass leader, the junior moved into second place on the school's career passing list with 7,396 yards - 299 short of the 7,695 Favre threw for from 1987-90. Meanwhile, Desmond Johnson scored on a 62-yard run and finished with a season-high 107 yards rushing.
The win enabled Louisville to finish Charlie Strong's first season as a head coach with the Cardinals' first winning record since 2006.
Bilal Powell rushed for 75 yards for Louisville - well below his season average of 120.9 - however the 215-pound senior was instrumental in helping the Cardinals exhaust most of the clock after finally taking the lead.
Although they were meeting for the first time in a bowl game, there's a long history between the former conference rivals.
The Cardinals and Golden Eagles faced each other every season from 1978 to 1991 and both were members of C-USA 1996 to 2004, the season before Louisville moved to the Big East.
Southern Miss scored on its first two possessions, taking a quick 14-0 lead on Pierce's TD reception and Johnson's long run that left Louisville's defense, which ranked 11th nationally during the regular season, looking sluggish and bewildered.
The Cardinals didn't flinch, though, methodically climbing back into the game with help from linebacker Antwone Canady's fumble recovery, which set up Powell's 6-yard touchdown run and enabled Louisville to pull even at 21-all late in the first half.
Strong inherited a team that went 4-8 last season and was co-coach of the year in the Big East after the Cardinals' better-than-expected finish in the conference, achieved despite not having starting quarterback Adam Froman for the team's four games in November.
Burke completed 20 of 32 passes for 178 yards in his fifth consecutive start for the Cardinals, who went 3-2 in those games. He scrambled 19 yards on third-and-3 before throwing his TD pass to Graham to trim Louisville's deficit to 14-7 early in the second quarter.
Southern Miss answered with a seven-play, 64-yard march that Davis finished with his first his only reception of the season.
The redshirt junior quarterback from Meridian, Miss., circled to his right out of the backfield after handing off to receiver Kelvin Bolden, who handed to Pierce as he was heading around left end.
Davis became the Golden Eagles' career TD pass leader on the first play of the fourth quarter, finding Walters in the right corner of the end zone to snap a 21-21 tie. The lead lasted 15 seconds, as Wright took the kickoff on the left side of field and eventually made his way to the right sideline to finish the longest return in the short history of the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl.
HONOLULU (AP) - Austin Davis threw two touchdowns, including a 4-yarder late in the game, and No. 22 Southern Miss earned a school-record 12th victory by holding off Nevada 24-17 in the Hawaii Bowl on Saturday night.
Davis overcame a shaky start for the Conference USA champion Golden Eagles (12-2), and the defense in the second half managed to shut down Nevada's potent pistol attack led by Lampford Mark.
Davis was off most of the night but made it count on the game-winning drive. On third-and-goal, he scrambled right and found Kelvin Bolden for the 4-yard score, capping a seven-play, 68-yard drive. He had just 59 yard passing at halftime and finished 18 of 41 for 165 yards.
On the winning drive, Davis was 3 of 4 for 66 yards, including a 43-yard completion to Dominique Sullivan down the right sideline and a 19-yarder to a crossing William Spight. Sullivan had five catches for 75 yards.
With Davis held in check, the Golden Eagles relied on their defense, stopping Mark on fourth-and-1 at midfield with 3:56 left. Mark had 183 yards rushing for the Wolf Pack (7-6) but was held to just 21 yards in the second half.
Cody Fajardo was 8 of 19 for 60 yards for Nevada. He also was held to just 14 yards rushing on nine carries before being replaced by Tyler Lantrip.
It was the final game for Southern Miss under coach Larry Fedora, who is leaving after four seasons to take over at North Carolina. The Golden Eagles got another big win after capturing their fifth C-USA title by upsetting previously unbeaten Houston 49-28 in the conference championship game. This was the first 10-win season for Southern Miss since 1988.
Nevada tied the game 17-17 late in the third quarter on a 37-yard field goal by Allen Hardison, taking advantage of a miscue by Southern Miss. Lampley waved for a fair catch on a punt and was run into by teammate Alex Smith. The ball bounced off Lampley's left leg and Nevada's Brandon Marshall recovered on the Southern Miss 14, leading to the field goal.
Just as Nevada seemed to take control of the game, Southern Miss scored 10 points in the final 1 1/2 minutes of the first half to take a 17-14 lead into the break.
Mark's 45-yard run gave the Wolf Pack a 14-7 lead with about 5 minutes left in the half, and Nevada took the ball right back on the ensuing kickoff.
Lorenzo Devers returned the kickoff 61 yards and appeared to be heading for a touchdown. After shedding the kicker, Devers was stripped from behind by Khalid Wooten and Thaddeus Brown returned it 16 yards to the Nevada 36.
But the team from Reno gambled and ended up turning it over on downs on its own 45 when Mark was stopped short on fourth-and-1. That led to a 48-yard field goal by Hrappman with 1:21 left in the half.
On the kickoff, Wooten fumbled and Southern Miss's Emmanuel Johnson recovered at the Nevada 24. Seven plays later, Davis threw a 2-yard pass to Lampley in the back of the end zone for the go-ahead score. A brief scuffle broke out between some of the players after the catch, but no one was ejected.
With both teams struggling to get going, special teams got the Golden Eagles on the scoreboard from a blocked punt by Tim Green early in the second quarter.
Green burst through the middle and leaped in the air, getting his hand on the ball as he flipped over a blocker. Tray Becton-Martin then dropped on the ball in the end zone, giving the Golden Eagles a 7-0 lead. Tray Becton-Martin is the 25th different player to score for the Golden Eagles this year, which leads the nation.
Nevada answered with a 5-yard touchdown run by Mark, who had a 25-yard scamper to begin the 81-yard drive. Mark had 41 yards rushing on the drive, giving him 112 yards and his sixth-straight game with 100 or more.
Both teams blew good scoring opportunities in the first quarter.
Mark burst up the middle for 43 yards and was chased down from behind by Presley, getting Nevada inside the red zone. But Cody Fajardo's pass on third down was tipped and intercepted in the end zone by Jacorius Cotton.