• 57°
franklin county times

USM seniors disappointing with consecutive losses to end season

By Staff
Nov. 25, 2000
By Richard Dark/The Meridian Star
HATTIESBURG One thing's for certain, the swagger that the Southern Miss Golden Eagles used to carry around Conference USA is gone.
The final gun in Friday's rainy 14-9 loss to the East Carolina saw a muddy, beaten and downtrodden group trudge single file up the ramp into the dressing room trailer.
The loss that saw USM exhibit little fight until the closing minutes of the game, dropped the Golden Eagles to fourth place and gave them more league losses with three than they had in their entire tenure in CUSA.
Injuries. Penalties. Turnovers. Rain. Mud. All are factors that could have contributed to the back end of the first USM two-game losing streak since the beginning of last season. And in the bigger picture, a total lack of consistency. On offense, the Eagles have lost three offensive linemen, two receivers and two running backs one of which was largely ineffective the whole season due to injury.
Shawn Mills chose to focus on playmaking.
But the glaring problem of receiving nothing on offense was underscored as USM's defense held ECU to only a single touchdown.
The bulky and talented Pirate quarterback David Garrard was anything but, as he ran 16 times for only 31 yards and only completed 5-of-20 passes for a scant 55 yards.
Fumbles also hampered USM. They fumbled twice and had an interception returned for the decisive points. The first fumble came with 2:25 to go before the half. Jeff Kelly lofted a long bomb that wide receiver Kenneth Johnson hauled in at the 17-yard line. But he then fumbled and ECU defender Brandon Rainer picked it up and returned it 41 yards to the USM 45.
Richard Dark is a sports writer for the Meridian Star. Email him at rdark@meridianstar.com.