HONOLULU, HI (WDAM) - Fittingly, a season that featured a re-vamped defense and a veteran offense ended with the University of Southern Mississippi scoring just enough points while making timely stops en-route to a 24-17 win over Nevada in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.
Southern Miss, who finished the season with a record-setting 12th win, ended all hopes of a Nevada comeback with 1:36 left in the game. Facing fourth down and needing one yard, the Wolfpack, trailing 24-17, called upon running back Lampford Mark, who gashed the black and gold for 183 yards rushing and two touchdowns on the day.
But the defense snuffed out the run, and Southern Miss took over on downs on the 50-yard line, needing only the victory formation afterward to seal the win. The fourth-down was just one of many made by the Golden Eagles on a day the offense did not prove nearly as effective as over the course of the season.
For the first time all year, senior quarterback Austin Davis and the offense were held scoreless in the first quarter of play. And as has been the case all year, another unit, in this case the special teams, stepped up to provide the game's first points.
Senior linebacker Tim Green blocked the first punt of the second quarter, and Tray Becton-Martin recovered in the endzone to make the score 7-0.
Mark and the Nevada offense responded with two scoring drives, giving the Wolfpack a 14-7 lead mid-way through the second. After a Danny Hrappman field goal cut the Golden Eagle deficit to four, the special teams unit stepped up once again.
Southern Miss caused a Nevada fumble on the ensuing kick-off, and took over at the Wolf-pack 24-yard line with 1:16 remaining until half-time. It took the offense 11 plays, a fourth-down conversion and 1:09, but the drive ended with Davis connecting with receiver Tracy Lampley in the back of the endzone for the go-ahead score, giving the Golden Eagles a 17-14 lead heading to half-time.
Davis completed 18 of 41 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns, while junior running back Desmond Johnson led the way on the ground with 16 rushes for 77 yards. Senior defensive end garnered bowl MVP honors with his seven tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.