USM spoils Ohio’s return to bowl scene
By John Zenor
Associated Press Writer
MOBILE — Damion Fletcher ran for two touchdowns and Southern Miss scored 21 points in the second quarter en route to a 28-7 victory over Ohio on Sunday night in the GMAC Bowl, spoiling the Bobcats’ return to the postseason.
The Golden Eagles (9-5) thoroughly dominated after a scoreless first quarter for their third consecutive postseason win.
Frank Solich’s Bobcats (9-5) were making their first bowl appearance since 1968, but that euphoria wore off quickly as the game turned into a mismatch
They are 0-3 in bowl games and failed to match their school record of 10 wins. It was a rough ending to a feel-good story that saw Solich, a former Nebraska coach, revive a struggling program that won only four games in his debut season.
The Golden Eagles used a series of big plays in the final 8:33 of the first half to break open the scoreless game, then had a marathon march to open the third quarter.
First, backup tailback Tory Harrison scampered for a 43-yard touchdown run, only his second of the season. Jeremy Young then set up Fletcher’s 2-yard TD plunge with a 30-yard pass to Josh Barnes on third and 10.
The defense added points, too. James Denley returned an interception of Ohio backup quarterback Brad Bower 18 yards for a score with 1:13 left before the half.
It was the Golden Eagles’ seventh non-offensive TD of the season, the most under coach Jeff Bower.
The teams had combined for just 82 offensive yards after one quarter, but Southern Miss racked up 150 in the second.
The Golden Eagles then monopolized the ball, opening the second half with a 17-play, 80-yard drive that worked 9:55 off the clock and severely damaged any hopes for a comeback by Ohio’s plodding offense.
It was the team’s longest drive of the season in both plays and time consumed.
Fletcher ended it by reversing field behind the line and outrunning the defenders for a 9-yard TD.
The darting, 175-pound freshman managed just 58 yards on 20 carries but it was enough for him to earn game Most Valuable Player honors. Young was the offensive MVP after passing for 160 yards.
Denley was the top defensive player while punter Britt Barefoot claimed special teams honors.
Ohio tailback Kalvin McRae capped a difficult week with a 10-carry, 37-yard performance. The two-time All-Mid-American Conference performer only arrived in Mobile Friday evening after his 7-month-old nephew’s death.
Both offenses struggled. Southern Miss managed just 284 yards compared to 224 for Ohio.
The Bobcats finally scored on Everson’s 13-yard touchdown pass to John Christy with 9:34 left in the fourth quarter.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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