Southern Miss 7

(5-3, 1-3 away)

TCU 37

(7-1, 4-0 home)

Coverage: ESPN2

7:30 PM ET, October 30, 2002

Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX

1 2 3 4 T
USM 0 0 7 07
TCU 3 10 24 037

Hobb rushes for 123 yards, three TDs in win

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- The freshman running back who wasn't even expected to play this season has helped TCU move into first place in Conference USA.

Lonta Hobbs ran for 123 yards and three touchdowns, including ones of 53 and 13 yards in a 24-point third quarter, as the Horned Frogs (7-1, 4-1 Conference USA) beat Southern Mississippi 37-7 Wednesday night for their seventh straight win.

"I don't even know if he knows what's going on yet,'' TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "He just walks around with a smile because he's happy to be here.''

TCU had expected to redshirt Hobbs, but the plan changed because of injuries and a lack of production by other running backs over the first four games. Hobbs has responded with 383 yards and seven TDs in four games.

"Our offensive line did all of the hard work,'' Hobbs said. "I was just able to see the holes and run into them. We wanted to have fun, and that's what we did.''

Ricky Madison added 91 yards on 17 carries and Nick Browne kicked three field goals for the Horned Frogs, who took a one-half game lead over Southern Miss, Louisville and Alabama-Birmingham in the C-USA standings. TCU beat two-time defending champion Louisville 45-31 in its last game.

It was the worst C-USA loss in seven years for the Golden Eagles, who have been beaten by more points only three other times under 12th-year coach Jeff Bower.

"We just got our butts whipped,'' Bower said. "We didn't play well offensively. We didn't play well defensively.''

The Horned Frogs have won all four games, averaging 41 points, since Tye Gunn became the starting quarterback and Hobbs started playing.

But Gunn may not play again this season. He left the game in the third quarter when his right knee buckled awkwardly while trying to avoid the pursuit of linebacker Rod Davis. Sean Stilley took over.

While school officials refused to confirm the extent of the injury, both Gunn and Patterson indicated the quarterback won't play again this season. An MRI is planned.

"It hurts me more emotionally than physically,'' Gunn said. "I'm just going to work hard to get back in the spring.''

Southern Miss opened the second half with Dustin Almond's 48-yard TD pass to Marvin Young, who was wide open in the flat and got a downfield block, to make it 13-7.

Browne's 48-yard field goal started a 17-point surge in less than four minutes for TCU.

Almond's first pass after that was intercepted by Jared Smitherman and he returned 37 yards for a touchdown. Southern Miss then went three-and-out before Hobbs' third run of at least 50 yards this season on the first play of the next drive.

Hobbs took an option pitch to the right and had a clear shot down the sideline. Only one defender had a shot at him, but Hobbs cut back at the 15 to elude the tackle and slip into the end zone.

A 13-yard run by Hobbs with 42 seconds left in the third quarter ended the scoring.

"Lonta Hobbs is incredible,'' Stilley said. "It is amazing to see somebody that young be so amazing.''

A 13-yard run by Hobbs with 42 seconds left in the third quarter ended the scoring.

Hobbs' first TD was a 15-yarder in the second quarter.

Gunn took over as the starter after Stilley injured his shoulder Sept. 21 against North Texas. Gunn remained the starter against Southern Miss even though Stilley was healthy.

Gunn was 8-of-15 for 102 yards while Stilley completed his only two passes for 35 yards.

Almond, the first Southern Miss freshman to start at quarterback in eight years, was 9-of-27 for 110 yards with an interception after going 7-of-22 for 92 yards in his first start, a 23-14 win over Cincinnati on Oct. 19.

Derrick Nix, C-USA's second-leading rusher at 117 yards per game, had 48 yards in the first half but didn't return after reaggravating a right ankle injury.

Browne also had field goals of 29 and 30 yards in the first half, and is 19-of-21 this season. His 19 field goals are the most in the nation.