HOUSTON, TX (WDAM) - Senior quarterback Austin Davis connected with sophomore Dominique Sullivan on a 69-yard touchdown with 4:17 left before half-time that broke a 14-14 tie ball game and gave Southern Mississippi the lead for good. The golden eagles out-scored the sixth-ranked Houston cougars 28-7 in the second half, and captured their first conference title since defeating Houston 34-20 in 2006.
While Davis completed 17-of-33 passes for 279 yards and four touchdowns, he wasn't the only one producing points. As they've done all season, the defense and special teams got in the act. The first golden eagle score of the second half came when Furious Bradley scooped up a blocked punt and returned it 11 yards for a touchdown.
That gave Southern Miss a two-touchdown lead 28-14 with 11:35 left in the third period. The last score of the second half not only gave Southern Miss a 28-point lead, but also all but sealed the conference title.
Ronnie Thornton intercepted a pass from record-setting Houston quarterback Case Keenum, and returned it 26 yards for the score. The golden eagle defense smothered what had been a dominate cougar offense all season, allowing only 55 yards rushing and forced Keenum into two interceptions.
Keenum had only thrown three interceptions all season.
With the win, the golden eagles not only celebrate a conference championship, but also open up, if only slightly, their chances of a birth in a BCS bowl game. The bowl selections will be made Sunday night.