Friday, December 13, 2002
Southern Miss. 28, No. 13 TCU 21
MOBILE, Ala. -- Southern Mississippi delivered a message to
a Conference USA newcomer: Get ready for a wild ride.
The Golden Eagles shed their late-season offensive struggles,
contained Texas Christian tailback LaDanian Tomlinson and got the
best of the nation's top defense Wednesday night.
The final blow was Jeff Kelly's 29-yard touchdown pass to
freshman Kenny Johnson with eight seconds left, giving Southern
Miss a 28-21 win over the 13th-ranked Horned Frogs in the Mobile
It was a wild beginning to the bowl season and a triumphant
finish for a senior class that won three of four bowl games.
"It's like I told our seniors," said Golden Eagles coach Jeff
Bower, whose team went 8-4 despite losing three of its last four
regular-season games. "You always want to leave the program better
than the previous senior class, and the foundation of this program
is stronger than it's ever been."
The Horned Frogs (10-2) missed a chance to win bowl games in
three consecutive years for the first time. Next season, they'll
join Conference USA, where Southern Miss has won three titles in
They'll make the move without Tomlinson and four starting
offensive linemen, and with a new coaching staff, led by former
defensive coordinator Gary Patterson. Quarterback Casey Printers
will be back, too, and looking forward to the challenge.
"You want better competition," the sophomore said. "That's
what we live for."
The Southern Miss defense, rated No. 2 overall coming in, sent
Tomlinson, a Heisman Trophy finalist after rushing for more than
2,000 yards, into the NFL with what for him was a poor game.
Tomlinson scored a pair of third-quarter TDs, but was held to 118
yards on 28 carries. He was still voted the game's Most Valuable
Player by the media.
"He got his yards, but we held him to a minimum," said
Southern Miss safety Leo Barnes, who returned an interception 50
yards for a TD in the first quarter. It was his fourth interception
return for a score this season.
Normally reliable placekicker Brant Hanna had a nightmare game
for Southern Miss, missing four field goals and getting two
blocked. When the Golden Eagles got the ball back with 33 seconds
left and 43 yards to cover, Bower had already planned to use Curtis
Jones for a final kick if it came to that
"It was a tough night for Brant, but Brant's won a lot of games
for us," Bower said. "I asked Curt, 'Will you take that redshirt
off to win this football game?' He said, 'Yeah, coach."'
The final chance came after Etric Pruitt got a hand on Mark
Haulman's punt to set up good field position. TCU went
three-and-out when a first down would have enabled the Horned Frogs
to run out the clock and force overtime.
Kelly wasn't surprised at the second chance.
"Our defense has been making plays for us all season," said
Kelly, who was 11-of-23 for 159 yards and three TDs. "We just told
them on the sideline, 'We want one more shot."'
Kelly threw two incompletions, then scrambled 14 yards for a
first down. On the next play, he lofted a perfect strike over the
middle to Johnson, just above safety LaVar Veale's outstretched
"There weren't many people who gave us a chance to even stay on
the field with the No. 1 defense in the country," Kelly said.
Backup Southern Miss tailback Kelby Nance carried 16 times for
104 yards. It was the first career 100-yard game for the senior,
who started the season as a third-teamer.
The Horned Frogs endured a December coaching change and
uncertainty over who would lead them in the game.
Dennis Franchione left for Alabama Dec. 1, and was initially
expected to coach the bowl game. TCU officials decided late last
week to allow Patterson to begin early.
Franchione watched the game from the sideline and press box.
"It's been wild," Patterson said. "(The assistants) really
did a great job of preparing for the ball game with everything
|Cedric Scott and head coach Jeff Bower celebrate the Golden Eagles' Mobile Alabama Bowl victory|