Golden Eagles rally to beat Cavaliers|College football

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 21, 2009

HATTIESBURG — Southern Miss won another one against the big boys. And this time it was wilder than ever.

Tory Harrison’s 57-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter capped a remarkable comeback and gave Southern Miss a 37-34 win over Virginia on Saturday. It is USM’s fourth win in its last six games against teams from Bowl Championship Series conferences.

Southern Miss trailed by 17 points with 7:19 left in the third quarter before scoring three times in the next 12 minutes. Freddie Parham returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, Damion Fletcher added a 10-yard TD run with 13:37 left, and Harrison’s long run out of new Eagle formation put the Golden Eagles ahead to stay with 8:01 left.

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“Wow,” said Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora. “We put ourselves in the worst situation, putting balls on the ground, you name it, we did it. But I told my guys, we will find out what we are made of. This is the first time we’ve faced adversity this season.”

The Golden Eagles’ return teams played a big part, ripping the Cavaliers for 244 yards including Parham’s game-changing score and a 49-yard return to start the second half.

“The kickoff return was certainly a significant play in the game,” Virginia coach Al Groh said. “We talked at the half about not letting them score fast and letting them back in the game. I was still proud of our fight. We went to the end, we just didn’t do enough.”

The loss spoiled a great game from Virginia quarterback Jameel Sewell, who completed 24 of 46 passes for 312 yards and two TDs and ran for two more touchdowns. His 1-yard TD run put Virginia up 34-17 with 7:19 left.

“That guy did a heckuva job and their receivers made plays,” Fedora said.

So did Southern Miss’.

Following Fletcher’s 10-yard TD run, which also set the Southern Miss record for career touchdowns at 40, the Golden Eagles overcame an interception by Harrison out of the Eagle formation by stopping Virginia on downs at the USM 32.

After a first down, Harrison took a pitch from Fletcher, who took the shotgun snap and rolled around the end.

“Austin Davis and one of our receivers opened up a hole for me,” Harrison said of the 57-yard run that put Southern Miss up 37-34. Harrison finished with 101 yards on just three carries. Justin Estes’ PAT kick was blocked to give Virginia a chance to tie with a field goal.

The Cavaliers’ last chance came with 4:34 left, starting from their own 4-yard line. They picked up three first downs to reach the USM 40. A sack by Terrance Pope on second down forced a third-and-19 from the 49. Sewell then missed his next two passes to force a turnover on downs with 1:12 left.

“He was a pretty tough guy to bring down, but I came free and got him,” Pope said.

The first quarter was a nightmare for the Golden Eagles. The offense could not cash in a forced fumble at midfield, as a chop block penalty and a sack killed the drive. Sewell then fired a 69-yard touchdown pass to Tim Smith for a 7-0 lead.

Fumbles by Southern Miss’ two star players, Fletcher and DeAndre Brown, led to two field goals by Robert Randolph of 34 and 29 yards to give the Cavaliers a 13-0 lead, 10 minutes into the game. Brown’s miscue came after he got what was going to be a first down pass of 12 yards, but he retreated five yards and was stripped of the ball.

Fletcher’s fumble came after he rumbled 15 yards up the middle, but lost the ball when he was hit. He finished with 115 yards on 26 carries.

The Golden Eagles finally started holding onto the ball when Leroy Banks made a leaping catch for a 29-yard gain. The gain ignited a 90-yard drive capped by Fletcher’s 6-yard TD run. Davis completed a 12-yard pass to Banks and an 18-yarder to Baptiste to continue the march that pulled USM within 13-7.

Virginia answered with Sewell hitting Kris Burd on a 29-yard TD pass to cap an 80-yard drive that boosted the Cavs’ lead to 20-7.

Marquez Smith gave the Golden Eagles a boost when he intercepted a Sewell pass after a pair of penalites had backed the Cavs deep in their own territory. Davis misfired on three passes and the Golden Eagles settled for a 26-yard field goal by Estes to make it 20-10.

Sewell’s 4-yard TD run capped the first half with Virginia ahead 27-10.


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