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2011 Sheraton Hawaii - USM 24 - Nevada 17

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Dec 25, 2011


2011-2012 Bowls - CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2011 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl

2011 Sheraton Hawaii

Southern Miss 24 ... Nevada 17

- 2011-2012 CFN Bowl Central

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National Rankings
N S
5th Total Offense 13th
52nd Total Defense 31st
31st Scoring Offense 14th
58th Scoring Defense 29th
8th Rushing Offense 23rd
56th Run Defense 20th
30th Passing Offense 32nd
64th Passing Defense 70th
59th Turnover Margin 72nd
Position Rankings
relative to each other
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
N   S
4 Quarterbacks 4.5
4.5 RBs 4
4 Receivers 4
4.5 O Line 4.5
3 D Line 4
3 Linebackers 4
3 Secondary 3
3 Spec Teams 4
4 Coaching 3
Southern Miss 24 … Nevada 17
- CFN Thoughts on the Game

Southern Miss: QB Austin Davis completed 18-of-41 passes for 165 yards and two scores. … Desmond Johnson ran for 77 yards on 16 carries. … Punter Peter Boehme averaged 43.8 yards on eight kicks with five put inside the 20. … Dominique Sullivan caught five passes for 75 yards. … DE Cordarro Law made seven tackles, two sacks, and 4.5 tackles for loss.

Nevada: QB Cody Fajardo completed 8-of-19 passes for 60 yards and a pick, and ran for 14 yards. Tyler Lantrip completed 5-of-9 passes for 57 yards. … Lampford Mark ran 29 times for 183 yards and two scores. … Aaron Bradley caught seven passes for 64 yards. … John Michael Johnson made 13 tackles, a sack, and two tackles for loss.

HONOLULU (AP) - Austin Davis threw two touchdowns, including a 4-yarder late in the game, and No. 22 Southern Miss earned a school-record 12th victory by holding off Nevada 24-17 in the Hawaii Bowl on Saturday night.

Davis overcame a shaky start for the Conference USA champion Golden Eagles (12-2), and the defense in the second half managed to shut down Nevada's potent pistol attack led by Lampford Mark.

Davis was off most of the night but made it count on the game-winning drive. On third-and-goal, he scrambled right and found Kelvin Bolden for the 4-yard score, capping a seven-play, 68-yard drive. He had just 59 yard passing at halftime and finished 18 of 41 for 165 yards.

On the winning drive, Davis was 3 of 4 for 66 yards, including a 43-yard completion to Dominique Sullivan down the right sideline and a 19-yarder to a crossing William Spight. Sullivan had five catches for 75 yards.

With Davis held in check, the Golden Eagles relied on their defense, stopping Mark on fourth-and-1 at midfield with 3:56 left. Mark had 183 yards rushing for the Wolf Pack (7-6) but was held to just 21 yards in the second half.

Cody Fajardo was 8 of 19 for 60 yards for Nevada. He also was held to just 14 yards rushing on nine carries before being replaced by Tyler Lantrip.

It was the final game for Southern Miss under coach Larry Fedora, who is leaving after four seasons to take over at North Carolina. The Golden Eagles got another big win after capturing their fifth C-USA title by upsetting previously unbeaten Houston 49-28 in the conference championship game. This was the first 10-win season for Southern Miss since 1988.

Nevada tied the game 17-17 late in the third quarter on a 37-yard field goal by Allen Hardison, taking advantage of a miscue by Southern Miss. Lampley waved for a fair catch on a punt and was run into by teammate Alex Smith. The ball bounced off Lampley's left leg and Nevada's Brandon Marshall recovered on the Southern Miss 14, leading to the field goal.

Just as Nevada seemed to take control of the game, Southern Miss scored 10 points in the final 1 1/2 minutes of the first half to take a 17-14 lead into the break.

Mark's 45-yard run gave the Wolf Pack a 14-7 lead with about 5 minutes left in the half, and Nevada took the ball right back on the ensuing kickoff.

Lorenzo Devers returned the kickoff 61 yards and appeared to be heading for a touchdown. After shedding the kicker, Devers was stripped from behind by Khalid Wooten and Thaddeus Brown returned it 16 yards to the Nevada 36.

But the team from Reno gambled and ended up turning it over on downs on its own 45 when Mark was stopped short on fourth-and-1. That led to a 48-yard field goal by Hrappman with 1:21 left in the half.

On the kickoff, Wooten fumbled and Southern Miss's Emmanuel Johnson recovered at the Nevada 24. Seven plays later, Davis threw a 2-yard pass to Lampley in the back of the end zone for the go-ahead score. A brief scuffle broke out between some of the players after the catch, but no one was ejected.

With both teams struggling to get going, special teams got the Golden Eagles on the scoreboard from a blocked punt by Tim Green early in the second quarter.

Green burst through the middle and leaped in the air, getting his hand on the ball as he flipped over a blocker. Tray Becton-Martin then dropped on the ball in the end zone, giving the Golden Eagles a 7-0 lead. Tray Becton-Martin is the 25th different player to score for the Golden Eagles this year, which leads the nation.

Nevada answered with a 5-yard touchdown run by Mark, who had a 25-yard scamper to begin the 81-yard drive. Mark had 41 yards rushing on the drive, giving him 112 yards and his sixth-straight game with 100 or more.

Both teams blew good scoring opportunities in the first quarter.

Mark burst up the middle for 43 yards and was chased down from behind by Presley, getting Nevada inside the red zone. But Cody Fajardo's pass on third down was tipped and intercepted in the end zone by Jacorius Cotton.

Nevada (7-5) vs. Southern Miss (11-2) Dec. 24, 8:00, ESPN

Here’s The Deal … Southern Miss has one final chapter left in the busiest December in school history.

It’s been a peculiar year in Hattiesburg, particularly over the past few weeks. On the one hand, the campaign has been historic, the first one in school history that ended with at least 11 victories. Oh, and the latest win was a real doozy, knocking off No. 6 and unbeaten Houston on the road in the Dec. 3 Conference USA Championship Game.

However, this has also been a school that’s fallen to also-rans Marshall and UAB to squander a chance of playing in a BCS bowl game. Southern Miss is No. 21 in the BCS rankings, but would have been top 10 had they successfully disposed of the Thundering Herd and Blazers. Oh, and then there’s the business of the coaching situation.

Of course, there’s often a hitch when a smaller program authors a breakout year, such as the marketability of the head coach. Larry Fedora, for instance. The architect of the Golden Eagles’ success has accepted an offer to lead North Carolina, leaving his old employer in a bit of limbo.

However, in somewhat of an odd twist, Fedora will still be on the sidelines for the Hawaii Bowl, aiming to finish what he started four years ago. The coach will have one foot in the sand, and the other one in Chapel Hill as the Southern Miss administration begins its quest for a successor.

All things considered, Nevada has done a respectable job in this encore to last season’s 13-1 epic campaign. Expectations were modest following the graduations of QB Colin Kaepernick and a bunch of other key seniors, yet the Wolf Pack still managed to qualify for a school-record seventh bowl game in-a-row and third appearance in this event.

The Pack got off the mat after starting 1-3 against a brutal September schedule outside of Reno, winning six of the final eight games. Yeah, quality wins were non-existent, but the positive finish and 15 additional practices will prove beneficial to the non-seniors on the roster.

For the Pack, the trip to the islands will be its last under the Western Athletic Conference banner. The school is off to the ever-changing Mountain West Conference in 2012, where it hopes to continue its quest for a higher profile and more national relevance. It can begin by playing better when the national spotlight is shining on them.

Nevada is only 2-4 in its last six bowl games, and was embarrassed by another Conference USA opponent in its last Hawaii Bowl appearance. Two years ago, the team arrived in Honolulu as a heavy favorite, but left on the short end of a humbling, 45-10 spanking at the hands of SMU and QB Kyle Padron.

Players to Watch: Three weeks away from the field have been good to the Southern Miss running game, which was hamstrung by injuries for much of the regular season. The Golden Eagles should be able to wear down the Nevada with a blend of freshman Jamal Woodyard, versatile Tracy Lampley and Desmond Johnson, the opening-day starter who missed seven games with an injury before returning to action in November. Of course, no matter who’s toting the ball, the attack will revolve around Austin Davis, the owner of most of the school’s passing records. No. 12 has been the face of the program for the last four years, leading by example, and accounting for 107 career touchdowns.

It’s going to take more than one quarterback to offset the playmaking ability of Davis. The Wolf Pack plans to bring a pair of capable signal-callers to Honolulu. Unselfish senior Tyler Lantrip is the more reliable passer, throwing four touchdown passes in the regular season finale versus Idaho. However, he was jumped on the depth chart in October by redshirt freshman Cody Fajardo, whose skill set is more closely aligned with Kaepernick's. The first-year player has run for 680 yards and 11 scores, while improving as a thrower as the season has progressed. Fajardo, who figures to get the majority of the reps, will labor to solve the Southern Miss secondary. Sure, he has a terrific weapon on the outside, WR Rishard Matthews, but the Eagles’ ninth-ranked pass efficiency D has been air-tight all year when the ball is in the air.

One of the more intriguing games-within-the-game pits Southern Miss DE Cordarro Law against the Nevada O-line, particularly the left side. A First Team All-Conference USA selection, Law has the quickness and intensity to take a contest over, especially when Bandit Jamie Collins forces the opposition to dedicate a blocker to him. Getting through all-star juniors Jeff Nady and Chris Barker, though, will be a tall order. The Pack’s fortress to the left of center is a key reason that the team leads the WAC in fewest sacks allowed, and is No. 8 nationally in rushing. When Nady and Barker are moving the pile, the head coach Chris Ault’s Pistol can be a very difficult system to contain.

The graduation of DE Dontay Moch opened the door for DT Brett Roy to emerge as the new superstar of the Nevada defense. A well-kept secret outside of Reno no longer, No. 47 has erupted into a pro prospect in 2011 by compiling a WAC-high 18.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. The senior from Yucaipa, Calif. is one of the hardest working players on the roster, both on and away from the field. He moves with the fluidity of a strongside end, and uses his hands well, refusing to quit on a play. Roy is one of those off-the-radar players who stands to benefit from a rare opportunity to showcase his skills in front of a larger-than-normal viewing audience.

Nevada will win if … Fajardo lights the fuse of the offense.

The Pack may boast some talented defenders, like Roy, LB James-Michael Johnson and CB Isaiah Frey, but this is a program that still takes its marching orders from the offense. When Nevada has produced at least 35 points this fall, it’s a perfect 6-0. Less than 35? How about 1-5? It will have to put up points to upset Southern Miss, particularly at a venue built for fireworks. Fajardo has the ability to be the linchpin. When he’s doing his best Kaepernick impersonation, it helps to unlock the Wolf Pack playmakers. Matthews is prone to streak into space, and leading rusher Lampford Mark, who’s gone for 100 yards in five straight games, is much tougher to defend on the ground. Fajardo needs to match the production of USM’s Davis if Nevada is going capture this year’s Hawaii Bowl.

Southern Miss will win if … an already effective offense continues to get help from other sources.

One of the hidden reasons for the Golden Eagles’ success this season has been the playmaking ability of the defense and special teams, which have supercharged the school’s overall output. The program has produced 13 non-offensive touchdowns in 13 games, two on fumble returns, three on special teams and a whopping eight on interceptions. Between Lampley on punts and kickoffs, and the sticky hands of cornerbacks Deron Wilson and Marquese Wheaton, Southern Miss harbors the athletes needed to completely alter the momentum of a game. If Davis & Co. receive the added boost of takeaways or points off special teams, it could be too much for Nevada to overcome.

What Will Happen: Fedora already has a new gig and a hefty raise, but that won’t stop him from giving back to his former employer one last time before relocating.

As if the palm trees and perfect weather won’t be distracting enough, Southern Miss faces the added challenge of a staff in flux. Fedora will work extra hard to make sure his kids keep their eyes on the ball. Call it a going away present. Nevada can be a feisty crew on both sides of the ball, but it remains a rung below this season’s final opponent. Oh, and Davis gives the Golden Eagles an important edge in production and experience behind center. With help from an opportunistic D, the senior will pilot his team to one final, high-scoring victory as the leader of the program.

CFN Prediction: Southern Miss 37 … Nevada 28
- Click For Latest Line From ATS: Southern Miss -6   O/U: 61
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Nevada has been hit-or-miss in bowls under Chris Ault, but the coaching change at USM will be the difference. It'll be a wild shootout; the 61 point over might ten points to low.

By Richard Cirminiello 
Cody Fajardo, the young Nevada quarterback, is a name that fans will be hearing plenty over the next few seasons.

By Matt Zemek
Southern Miss has much better horses than Nevada does.

By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee  
Larry Fedora lobbied for a BCS bid, but a trip to Hawaii is a nice consolation. But, will he be around to coach in this one? I doubt it.

By Russ Mitchell
Southern Miss ended Houston's merry-go-round. Stand up if you think Larry Fedora is still at USM for this? Sit down, Larry. Still, it's football on Christmas Eve...'cause nothing says the Baby Jesus like a late night Nevada/USM tilt.

By Terry Johnson
Expect plenty of offense in this game, as both teams rank in the top 13 nationally in total offense, and average well over 30 points per game.

By Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN
What no Hawaii? Southern Miss gets a chance to prove that the showing against Houston was no fluke if it can handle the demands of the long trip to paradise. Can I cover this game in person?
 
Best Bowl Moments
 
Best Golden Eagle Bowl Moment: TCU entered the 2000 Mobile Alabama Bowl with the nation’s No. 1 defense, top rusher in LaDainian Tomlinson, and a nifty 10-1 record. The Horned Frogs left the Heart of Dixie with their second blemish. Southern Miss rallied in the fourth quarter to stun TCU, 28-21, when Jeff Kelly found Kenneth Johnson for the game-winning touchdown with eight ticks left in the game.

Best Wolf Pack Bowl Moment: In one of the most exciting games of the 2005 bowl bonanza, Nevada got by UCF in the Hawaii Bowl, 49-48, in overtime. In a wild, see-saw game that featured 1,178 yards of offense, the Wolf Pack got off the island with a win after Matt Prater missed an extra point that would have sent the game to a second extra session.
 
Hawaii Bowl History
2010 Tulsa 65, Hawaii 35
2009 SMU 45, Nevada 10
2008 Notre Dame 49, Hawaii 21
2007 East Carolina 41, Boise St 38
2006 Hawaii 41, Arizona State 24
2005 Nevada 49, UCF 48 OT
2004 Hawaii 59, UAB 40
2003 Hawaii 54, Houston 48 3OT
2002 Tulane 36, Hawaii 28

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