RUSTON, LA - Southern Miss was knocking on Louisiana Tech's door, in position to take its first lead of the game in the fourth quarter.
However, Tez Parks fumbled at the one-yard-line and the Bulldogs drove 96 yards to the end zone. In the blink of an eye, the Golden Eagles trailed by 11 points with just 4:08 to play.
With time precious, USM did not waver for a second.
"It was almost like in 30 seconds the game changed completely," said USM head coach Jay Hopson. "You just got to credit our players, our coaches. Those guys just kept fighting and they didn't give in."
Just a play removed from fumbling at the goal line, Parks burst up the middle for 12 yards. The run kickstarted at 43-yard drive that eventually set up Parker Shaunfield's career-high fourth field goal of the game.
The kick true from 49 yards, Shaunfield's career long, and USM pulled within eight points with 1:23 remaining.
"Honestly, I didn't even know it was a 49 yarder when I went out there," Shaunfield said. "I just went out there, we need these points to get within eight to give us a chance to win the ball game. I just went out there and hit it. I tried not to think too much about it, didn't make it bigger than it actually was."
There was no downplaying the next play. Freshman Briggs Bourgeois lined up to boot the first onside kick of his career and it was a beauty, bouncing off the fingertips of a couple of Bulldogs before Paxton Schrimsher gathered the football for Southern Miss.
"When Paxton got the onside kick, I really was dedicating this game to my little cousin," said Parks, whose cousin passed away last summer. "All I can say is, she was watching over us tonight. When Paxton got the fumble recovery, all I could do was thank her, thank God."
"Once we got the onside kick back, the whole team just changed," said USM junior wide receiver Korey Robertson. "Everybody was up here so after that we were ready."
Robertson's 22-yard touchdown scamper and Jay'Shawn Washington's 2-point conversion catch with 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter tied the game at 27 a piece, forcing overtime.
After Tarvarius Moore ended Louisiana Tech's first overtime possession with an interception, USM looked in prime position to set up a game-winning field goal. But Howard audibled from a running play to a pass and was intercepted by the Bulldogs' Amik Robertson.
"We talked about that after the game," Hopson said. "We can smile about it now but we said 'no mas' on that. We're not doing that anymore."
"In overtime, instead of faking the run and try to be greedy in overtime, [I have to] understand the situation," Howard said.
Howard redeemed himself just a few moments later, throwing the game-winning touchdown to Robertson in the second overtime period.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of him," Hopson said. "You know how tough that is. You feel like the weight of the world is down on you and then all of a sudden you respond, come back and throw a touchdown to win the ball game. [It] says volumes about his character, the fight and determination of that young man."
"Tonight, I learned a lot," Howard said. "I'll go back tomorrow in the film room and try to learn from my mistakes and look forward to UAB now."