Photo courtesy of Southern Miss Athletics
(Sports Network) - Austin Davis threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Bolden in the fourth quarter, boosting 22nd-ranked Southern Miss to a 24-17 win over Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl.
Davis completed 18-of-41 passes for 165 yards and two scores for the Golden Eagles (12-2), who beat Houston 49-28 in the Conference USA title game earlier this month. Saturday's result established a school record for wins in a season.
It was the final game for Larry Fedora as the head coach of the Golden Eagles. Fedora, who coached at Southern Miss the last four years, was named the new head coach at North Carolina earlier this month. Ellis Johnson, who has served as the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach under Steve Spurrier at South Carolina for the past four years, will take over as head coach for Southern Miss.
Lampford Mark rushed for 183 yards and a pair of scores for the Wolf Pack (7-6), who also got a combined 117 yards passing from Cody Fajardo and Tyler Lantrip.
Southern Miss started the winning drive at its 32 following a punt. Davis hit Dominique Sullivan for a 43-yard gain to the Nevada 28. Two plays later, Davis found William Spight for a 19-yard connection. On 3rd-and-goal, Davis scrambled to his left and jumped in the air to deliver the TD pass to Bolden in end zone with 5:48 remaining.
The Golden Eagles came up big defensively, stuffing Mark for no gain at the 50 on a 4th-and-1 play just inside four minutes left. Southern Miss cranked out three more first downs to run out the remaining time.
Danny Hrapmann missed a 50-yard field goal early in the first quarter for Southern Miss, which turned away a Nevada drive later in the period thanks to a turnover. Fajardo's pass into the end zone was deflected by linebacker Ronnie Thornton and picked off by Jacorius Cotton.
A total of 31 points were scored in the second, started by a blocked punt by the Golden Eagles. Tim Green broke through to knock away Jake Hurst's kick, and Tray Becton-Martin recovered in the end zone in the opening minute.
Mark scored on runs of five and 45 yards later in the quarter for Nevada, which forced a turnover on a kickoff with under five minutes left. Jeremy Hester looked to be on his way to the end zone, but was caught from behind and stripped of the ball. Thaddeus Brown recovered at the Nevada 36.
The Wolf Pack turned the ball over on downs, leading to a Hrapmann 48-yard field goal for a 14-10 margin.
Southern Miss caught a break on the ensuing kickoff when Khalid Wooten fumbled. The Golden Eagles took over at the Nevada 24 with 1:16 left and converted a 4th-and-1 when Davis powered ahead for a yard to the four. Tracy Lampley made a leaping two-yard reception in the end zone with 12 seconds left.
Tempers flared for both sides in the back of the end zone. Marlon Johnson, who was beaten in coverage on the scoring play, pushed Lampley in the face.
Hrapmann missed a 48-yard field goal early in the third, and after the Golden Eagles turned the ball over on downs, Nevada's Allen Hardison put through a 37-yard kick with under three minutes left in the quarter to tie the game. Hardison's boot came after a critical mistake by USM on a punt return as Hester ran into Lampley and the Wolf Pack recovered at the USM 14.