East Carolina shuts down Southern Miss
Nov. 25, 2000
HEADED TO VICTORY East Carolina running back Leonard Henry (22) sprints away from Southern Mississippi defenders, including Daleroy Stewart (90), for a short gain during the first quarter in Hattiesburg. AP photo
By Richard Dark/The Meridian Star
HATTIESBURG The bullseye the rest of Conference USA has placed on the Southern Miss Golden Eagles' chest is no longer visible.
That's because the East Carolina Pirates blew the final, gaping hole in the Golden Eagles by virtue of a 14-9 win on the muddy quagmire that served as a football field at M.M. Roberts Stadium Friday.
Logan was right, the Pirates (7-4, 5-2 in CUSA) finished with only 210 yards of total offense.
In the sloppy, soupy mess that was played under a steady drizzle through three quarters and only half of a paid attendance of 25,152, neither team generated much offense, and both combined for 20 punts and five turnovers.
Although USM (7-4, 5-3) amazingly generated 371 yards of total offense, they didn't get on the scoreboard until the 6:23 mark of the third quarter when Brant Hanna kicked a 20-yard chip shot field goal.
But by that point, the Pirates had already got all the points they needed on the dreary afternoon.
The Golden Eagles have won just two out of five games since whipping Tulane on Oct. 14, including a pair of three-point squeakers at Houston and UAB, respectively.
And on the day, the USM defense once again came up with a stellar effort only to receive little or no help from the injury-riddled offense.
ECU quarterback David Garrard's 6-yard touchdown pass with 29 seconds to go in the opening frame represented ECU's only offensive achievement of the day.
The play gave the Pirates a 7-0 lead after Kevin Miller's extra-point kick. The offensive futility on both sides continued and peaked when Jeff Kelly threw a pass directly to Greg LeFever, who rumbled 20 yards to the USM 34, where he was stripped from behind by Golden Eagle receiver Kwantrell Green.
But LeFever's teammate Kelly Hardy was heads-up on the play, scooping up the loose ball and rambling the rest of the way for six, as plenty of Golden Eagles looked on.
Kelly finished with 239 yards on 16-of-38 passing and the pick. He also ran for 37 yards.
USM did make an otherwise eventless game interesting at the end however. Chad Williams returned a Miller punt 63-yards to set Kelly and company up at the ECU 12.
Kelly then scrambled in to pull USM to within 14-9. The swing pass that served as the two-point conversion, fell incomplete when running back Kelby Nance had to dive for the football at the five.
After the failed onside kick, USM got the ball back with 1:20 left, but the drive and the 17 seniors' hopes for a win in their final home game, died at the 42-yard line.
The lack of points on the part of the home team had all involved baffled.
Questions abounded, but even if Bower didn't have an explanation, he still refused to offer any excuses, especially when it came to field position.
Bower repeatedly uttered the phrase, I don't know' when it came to injuries, as running back Dawayne Woods was added to the list of walking wounded, as he left the game for good in the second quarter with a high ankle sprain.
In his stead, however, senior Kelby Nance performed admirably, tallying 91 yards on 18 carries.
While Bower seemed to think his troops would quickly put the extremely subpar finish to the season behind them, defensive end Cedric Scott emphatically stated otherwise.
USM, losers of three of their final four games limp into the Dec. 20 GMAC Mobile, Alabama bowl against TCU. ECU goes on to the galleryfurniture.com bowl to face an opponent to be determined.
Richard Dark is a sports writer for the Meridian Star. E-mail him at email@example.com.