Instant analysis: S. Miss 24, Nevada 17

December, 24, 2011
12/24/11
11:46
PM ET

No. 21 Southern Miss beat Nevada 24-17 in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Saturday night. Here is a quick breakdown of how it happened:

How the game was won: One definitive drive. Incredibly, two of the most potent offenses in the nation slogged through most of this game. Special teams were a mess on both sides -- Nevada had a punt blocked and lost a fumble on a kickoff; Southern Miss lost fumbles on a kickoff and a punt return. Midway through the fourth quarter, each team had more punts than first downs. But finally, the Golden Eagles woke up with seven minutes to play. Austin Davis fired a 43-yard pass to Dominique Sullivan. Davis completed the drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Bolden. It was the longest drive of the game for the Golden Eagles.

Turning point: The 43-yard pass to Sullivan might not have gone for a big play had Nevada defensive back Isaiah Frey not gambled. Frey went for the interception and missed, allowing Sullivan to race 20 more yards.

Player of the game: Southern Miss defensive end Cordarro Law. After Nevada gashed Southern Miss on the ground in the first half, Law helped his teammates put an end to that. He had a huge impact in the second half, and ended the game with seven tackles (three for loss) and two sacks.

Second guessing: Nevada had a chance to answer the go-ahead Southern Miss score. On fourth-and-1 from midfield with 4:01 to go, coach Chris Ault called a running play between the tackles. The Wolf Pack had early success running in that direction, but they had been stymied the entire second half. Lampford Mark was tackled for no gain, and that did it for Nevada. After Mark had 162 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, he had 22 after the break.

What it means for Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles won a school-record 12 games to cap the best season in school history. But now they have to move on without coach Larry Fedora and record-setting quarterback Davis. Fedora moves on to North Carolina, while Davis will try for a shot in the NFL. Both were instrumental in this team's success this season.

What it means for Nevada: The Wolf Pack played their final game in the WAC, as they head to the Mountain West in 2012. They are now 0-4 in their past four appearances in Aloha Stadium and continue to have key breakdowns on defense late in games. In its past three defeats, Nevada has either been tied or had a lead in the fourth quarter, and lost. Cody Fajardo was benched in the second half in favor of Tyler Lantrip because he was ineffective, so the Wolf Pack are going to need much more consistency out of him if he is to lead this team going forward.

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