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Thursday, December 4, 2003
LB Davis named defensive player of year

Associated Press

HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- Southern Miss head football coach Jeff Bower has been named Conference USA coach of the year and Golden Eagles linebacker Rod Davis won C-USA defensive player of the year.

The awards were handed out Thursday and voted on by the league's head coaches and media members.

Bower, 50, led the Golden Eagles to a 9-3 record, going 8-0 in conference play. Southern Miss won its first C-USA title since 1999.

The Golden Eagles will represent the conference at the AXA Liberty Bowl in Memphis on Dec. 31, facing Mountain West Conference champion Utah.

Bower has a record of 89-61-1 in 13 seasons with Southern Miss, making him the longest tenured coach in the league.

Since Conference USA began football competition in 1996, Southern Miss has posted a 42-11 mark in league play with four regular season championships.

Bower has led the Eagles to 10 consecutive winning seasons and seven bowl appearances.

"First our players have worked hard each and every week, fought through the early adversity and grew together to win the championship through a total team effort," he said. "I can't say enough about our seniors and the leadership they provided all year."

"Second is our coaching staff. They have done an outstanding job, and they never really get the credit they deserve."

The Golden Eagles started 3-3 this season, but ended the year with six straight wins.

"Coach Bower never gave up on us," quarterback Dustin Almond said. "He pushed us harder when we were down. He is a great motivator and pushed us each day in practice and every game to improve. It's great to see him win this award."

Memphis sophomore running back DeAngelo Williams was named offensive player of the year. TCU kicker Nick Browne was named as the league's special teams player of the year. True freshman quarterback Kevin Kolb of Houston was named the league's freshman of the year.

Davis became the fourth Golden Eagles player to win C-USA defensive player of the year honors.

He leads Southern Miss in tackles (148), solo tackles (103), forced fumbles (four) and is second in tackles for loss (17).

"It is extra special, because he made the decision to come back (for his senior season) and achieved his goals that he set for returning," Bower said. "He graduated and won a conference championship. He means a lot to this program, not only because of his on the field contribution but also because of his leadership."

Davis has three sacks, three pass breakups, 11 quarterback hurries and one fumble recovery.

He is No. 2 in Conference USA in tackles, No. 1 in solo tackles and fourth in tackles for loss and tied for first in fumbles forced. He had a career-high 22 tackles at Cincinnati.

Davis is the career leader in Conference USA in tackles and tackles for loss.

Southern Miss cornerback Patrick Surtain won the award in 1996. Defensive end Adalius Thomas won it twice in 1998 and 1999 and defensive end Cedric Scott took the award in 2000.