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Golden Eagles grab big win over Army

By Staff
The Associated Press
Sept. 29, 2002
WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) The Southern Mississippi defense turned Matt Silva's first start into a disaster.
Linebacker Rod Davis intercepted Silva on the game's first play from scrimmage, and the Golden Eagles harassed Silva into five more interceptions on their way to a 27-6 win Saturday.
It was a tough day for Silva, who set an Army record for most interceptions thrown in a game.
We knew that he was going to be a little shaky and we're supposed to be one of the best defenses in the country,'' Davis said. We knew we had to get out and just stop him.''
Chris Johnson caught nine passes for 92 yards and a touchdown, and Derrick Nix ran for 87 yards and a score to lead Southern Miss (4-1, 2-0 Conference USA). Etric Pruitt added three interceptions for an Eagles defense that is giving up an average of 14 points a game.
Army (0-4, 0-2) opened the season with four straight losses for the second time in the last three years and the fourth time in school history. Last season, the Black Knights started 0-3 before beating Houston 28-14 in the season's fourth game. Army's worst start came in 1973 when it went 0-10.
Silva, who finished 16-of-36 for 199 yards, broke the interception record set by Chris Cagle against Stanford in 1928.
Silva started the season as the team's third-string quarterback but was forced into his first start after injuries in the season's first three games sidelined starter Reggie Nevels and backup Zac Dahman.
We have to play better to give ourselves a chance to win and with as many turnovers as we had today, that is not possible,'' Army coach Todd Berry said.
Still, it was not the kind of dominating performance Eagles coach Jeff Bower was looking for from his team, which lost to Alabama last week.
I wasn't that pleased with how we played today,'' Bower said. I don't think we played with any emotion. There was no enthusiasm, and I don't believe we were ready to play in the first half.''
Army came into the game having been outscored 89-14 in its previous two contests. Yet the Black Knights dominated a lethargic Southern Miss in the first half, and the Eagles were fortunate to go into halftime with a 7-6 lead.
The Black Knights held a 171-59 total yardage advantage in the first half but failed to convert on several drives deep in Southern Miss territory.
Army had the ball inside the Eagles' 34-yard line four times in the first half but came away with only two field goals by Paul Stelzer, from 31 and 30 yards.
An interception ended one drive while the defense stuffed Silva on a fourth-down quarterback sneak from the 1 yard-line on another.
By failing to score a touchdown Saturday, the Black Knights have one offensive touchdown in the last 13 quarters.
The Eagles' lone score of the first half was a 1-yard touchdown run by Nix.
I told my players (at halftime) that they better crank it up,'' Bower said. I told them that they better start playing with some enthusiasm and emotion and I told the guys on the sidelines that they aren't here for a free trip and they better get in the ballgame and help out.''
Southern Miss took control of the game in the third quarter. Johnson's 3-yard touchdown catch from Micky D'Angelo gave the Golden Eagles a 14-6 lead with 13:21 left in the quarter. Curt Jones added field goals of 19 and 33 yards for a 20-6 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Dustin Almond added a 14-yard touchdown run in the fourth.