MTSU quarterback Dasher runs wild over Golden Eagles

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 21, 2009

NEW ORLEANS — Middle Tennessee quarterback Dwight Dasher didn’t need Blitzen or Donder to carve up Southern Miss on Sunday.

Despite leaving the game several times with injuries, the game MVP accounted for four total touchdowns, completed 15 of 25 passes for 162 yards and rushed for 201 to lead MTSU to a 42-32 victory in the New Orleans Bowl.

His 201 yards rushing were an NCAA bowl record for a quarterback, snapping the mark set by Vince Young in the 2006 Rose Bowl, and he did it on a gimpy leg. He left the game in the first half when his knee buckled on a 14-yard run. In the third quarter he twisted an ankle. Each time he returned to plague the Golden Eagles. Behind Dasher, the Blue Raiders (10-3) erased an early 14-0 deficit and give the Sun Belt conference its first-ever 10-win season.

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“Dwight was hurt a lot more than he let on, but he showed a lot of toughness and competitiveness,” MTSU coach Rick Stockstill said. “He joins an elite club with 2,000 yards passing and rushing for 1,000. I thought Dwight’s performance is an example what our team stands for. No matter what the situation, if you’re hurt and can walk, you play the next down.”

Dasher’s gutsy performance wasn’t the only one from Middle Tennessee.

With time ticking away in the fourth quarter and MTSU nursing a 28-26 lead, offensive coordinator Tony Franklin went for it on fourth-and-1 from the USM 48. Dasher hit Desmond Gee with a short pass, and Gee scampered 18 more yards to set up a 2-yard TD run by Benjamin Cunningham with 3:14 left.

On USM’s next drive, Martevious Young was picked off by Danny Carmichael and a few plays later, Dasher scored his second rushing touchdown to make it 42-26.

“Obviously, it was difficult stopping him,” Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora said of Dasher. “We knew going in that he was a heck of a player, and he showed that tonight. We sent him out a great player. He single-handedly did it against us.”

Young threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Freddie Parham with 27 seconds left, but a two-point try failed. Middle Tennessee recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock.

The sour ending was far from the sweet start Southern Miss enjoyed.

Tory Harrison capped a breakneck nine-play, 66-yard drive following the opening kickoff with a 2-yard run to put USM up 6-0. After the USM defense forced a three-and-out, Young lofted a 24-yard touchdown pass to 6-foot-5 DeAndre Brown.

Brown then made another spectacular catch on the two-point conversion to put the Golden Eagles up 14-0.

Then the dimunitive Dasher took over. After leaving the game after his knee buckled, he sat out one play and looked good as new when he returned. He scampered on a big gainer to get Middle Tennessee in striking distance before hitting Garrett Andrews two plays later for an 11-yard score.

“I told coach that it was no kind of injury,” Dasher said. “Unless something was broke, I was going back in.”

The USM defense forced a big stop before the half, as Jamie Collins blocked a 32-yard field goal. But Young threw only his second interception of the season, as cornerback Alex Suber jumped in front of a bubble screen pass to set the Blue Raiders up at the USM 12.

Dasher did the rest, scampering away from the USM pass rush and finding Shane Blissard open for a 9-yard scoring strike to knot the game at 14-all.

Young ran the two-minute drill to perfection and Daniel Hrapman booted a 21-yard field goal to give Southern Miss a 17-14 lead at the break.

In the third quarter, Dasher scored on a 35-yard keeper up the middle to put MTSU back on top. Hrapman booted a 38-yard field goal to cut it to 21-20 midway through the third.

It appeared that MTSU’s chances took a serious blow as Dasher left with another injury late in the third quarter. But backup quarterback Brent Burnette showed he could run Franklin’s spread just as well, hitting Chris McGlover on a beautifully designed misdirection, play-action pass hookup to extend the advantage to 28-20.

“It’s definitely a bad taste in your mouth. We didn’t do what we wanted to do. We didn’t finish how we wanted to finish and send our seniors off in the win,” Fedora said. “We have to use this as motivation in the offseason. We’ll work hard and focus on all the things we didn’t do tonight. We’ll need to do the little things to get that taste out of your mouth so that we’re ready to go next August or September, on that Thursday against South Carolina.”


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