Eagles tame Cougars in title game
Published: Monday, December 5, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 01:12
The No. 24 ranked Southern Miss Golden Eagles were able to knock off No. 6 ranked Houston Cougars 49-28 in Saturday's Conference USA Championship game to win the school's fifth title and first since 2003. The win by the Golden Eagles was their eleventh of the year, a school record, and ruined Houston's bid for an undefeated season and possible BCS game appearance.
Senior linebacker Ronnie Thornton, who had a 26-yard interception return for a touchdown, talked about bringing the title back to USM. "It's a great feeling to be a part of this team," Thornton said. "We set the goal at the beginning of the season to win a conference championship. That's something we've done the past four years. To accomplish those goals this year, it feels great," Thornton said. "Words can't describe how I'm feeling right now. Before the season, the seniors got together and we wanted to make the year something we could remember."
Senior quarterback Austin Davis and junior running back Tracey Lampley were able to take the sold out crowd of out the game. Davis threw two of his four touchdown passes to Lampley for 16 and 61 yards. Davis finished the game with 279 yards passing on 17 completions and 33 attempts with one interception. Lampley was a dual threat that slashed the Cougars with 125 yards receiving, 79 yards rushing and 44 yards in returns.
The defense was equally devastating, motivated by a loud contingent of Southern Miss fans that made the eight-hour journey to Houston. They rose to the occasion and limited the big play ability of the Cougars, who were the No. 1 offense in the country heading into the game. Houston quarterback Case Keenum was chased all day. Keenum, who went into the game having thrown only 3 interceptions all season, was picked off twice. Deron Wilson intercepted a pass in the end zone to go along with Thornton's interception for a touchdown. Jamie Collins and Cordarro Law were able to sack Keenum once each.
"I am very proud of how our team played today. We had a lot to prove and we came out and played with a chip on our shoulder," said head coach Larry Fedora. "Our defense was dominating today. You take away the trash touchdown at the end and the one the offense gave them down there on the goal line, they only score 14 points. That's the best offense in this country. We were the better team today."
The Golden Eagles will finish their season at the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl against the Nevada Wolf Pack for the Western Athletic Conference on Dec. 24.
Senior defensive lineman Cordarro Law talked about the bowl trip on his Twitter account saying, "The Hawaii Bowl is a great opportunity for USM to be playing in. Its a once in a lifetime opportunity!! Above all we are the C-USA champs."