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Franchione in Mobile to watch TCU

By By Richard Dark/The Meridian Star
Dec. 21, 2000
MOBILE Despite moving on to coach the Alabama Crimson Tide recently, former TCU head coach Dennis Franchione was on hand, watching his old troops.
At halftime, he addressed assembled media and talked about his assessment of the first half of play. "There's some pretty good defense being played out there tonight," the new Tide coach said of the 7-7 tie. "Both of these teams want it pretty badly."
When a reporter asked Franchione what advice he gave to new coach Gary Patterson, he replied, "I didn't say too much. This is his show, I'm just trying to stay out of the way."
Wednesday night's game was the final one for TCU as a member of the WAC, they will join CUSA next season.
TCU's loss gave them an overall bowl record of 6-10-1. USM improved to 5-7. The series between the two teams is now knotted at 1-1.
Mobile Bowl Awards: The GMAC Mobile Alabama Bowl handed out three individual trophies during the postgame ceremonies. Game Most Valuable Player went to TCU running back LaDanian Tomlinson for his 118 yards rushing and two scores on 28 carries.
Offensive Player of the Game went to Leroy Handy who came off of a month-long layoff due to injury to grab five catches for 84 yards and a TD.
The Defensive Player of the Game nod went to Leo Barnes who had a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown, netted four tackles and a punt block.
Play of the Game: It's an obvious choice. USM could have very easily settled for overtime, but one thing's for sure, they weren't going to risk having yet another field goal attempt blocked. Kelly's on-the-money 29-yard loft to freshman Kenneth Johnson provided USM with it's second straight bowl victory.
Glaring Stat: Take your pick. The Southern Miss defense held the ballyhooed Tomlinson to a season-low 118 yards rushing. Or maybe it was the fact that USM's offense, which had put up 16 turnovers in the horrid 1-3 stretch that ended the season, didn't record a single one Wednesday night.
The usually steady Brant Hanna missing all four of his field goal attempts also looms large.
Did you notice?: The Mobile Bowl officials had earlier classified the game as a sellout of 40,300. They may have sold all the tickets, but all of the seats certainly weren't filled, perhaps due to the biting game-time temperature of 34 degrees.
USM fans, however, didn't disappoint. They outnumbered and outyelled the TCU contingent by a greater margin.
Something special: The big gaggle of USM fans that poured on the field afterward saw plenty of jubilation and some tears. Among them was the anchor of the offensive line, senior Billy Clay, who embraced his head coach in a wave of emotion.
What's next: For 17 USM seniors, this is it. But if Jeff Bower does indeed spurn Vince Dooley and the Georgia Bulldogs he'll have a great nucleus coming back with Kelly, Dawayne Woods, Derrick Nix and other talents like Johnson and Rod Davis with which to retool for another run at a Conference USA title.
Richard Dark is a sports writer for the Meridian Star. Email him at rdark@themeridianstar.com.

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