Marshall thunders past Southern Miss

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 21, 2008

HATTIESBURG — Marshall took advantage of mistake-prone Southern Miss for a 34-27 victory in the Conference USA opener for Southern Miss at rainy M.M. Roberts Stadium.

The loss was the first in conference action for first-year Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora. He bemoaned mistakes his team committed both big and small.

“We were out-played and out-coached. We had a lot of opportunities. We were inconsistent on both offense and defense and we got penalties on special teams,” Fedora said.

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It was a 5-yard offsides jump on tight end Jonathan Massey that may have been the key blow. Southern Miss was down 27-20 and had a third and less than a yard from the Marshall 21. Freshman quarterback Austin Davis tried to go for a big play with the pass, but had to check down to his back and the ball hit the turf, well short of his target.

On fourth down, Massey jumped, resulting in a fourth-and-6, Fedora opted for a 43-yard field goal, but Justin Estes was wide and Marshall (3-1, 2-0 C-USA) held its 27-20 lead with 10 minutes, 9 seconds left in the game.

“That was pretty big,” Fedora said of the false start penalty. “We were bunched in on third down, hoping to make a big play and if it didn’t work, we’d go for a sneak on fourth down.”

Southern Miss (2-2, 0-1) got the ball back with 5:41 left at the its own 6-yard line. They picked up two first downs to reach the 33. On first down, Davis had his pass batted and intercepted by Mauri Kitchens at the USM 18.

Darius Marshall scored on the next play and Tyler Warner’s kick made it 34-20 with 4:13 to play.

Down 14, Southern Miss didn’t fold. Davis led a 14-play, 77-yard drive that was capped by Damion Fletcher’s 3-yard run on fourthdown with 1:33 left.

Fedora elected to kick it deep and the Golden Eagle defense forced a quick three-and-out, giving the ball back to the offense with 1:11 to go.

“I thought we were going to overtime and have a chance to go home happy,” Southern Miss linebacker Gerald McRath said.

Starting at the 49, Davis completed four short passes to reach the Marshall 35. But with only 10 seconds left, he had just two more shots. Both fell incomplete, the last sailing out of the end zone.

‘I felt like we had a shot. This is very frustrating,” Davis said. He finished 27-of-49 for 308 yards.

Marshall was led by wide receiver Darius Passmore, who caught nine passes for 139 yards and scored on an 80-yard run with 6:10 left in third quarter that put Marshall up 27-13.

“I take blame for that one, I got knocked down by the running back. That play never should’ve happened,” McRath said.