New Orleans Bowl
Southern Mississippi 30
Troy University led 27-17 to start the fourth quarter and the Southern Miss football team was without its top receiving threat in DeAndre Brown while the Trojan offense was moving the ball with ease.
But the Eagles put together a furious comeback that gave Southern Miss (7-6) a 30-27 victory in overtime to take home the New Orleans Bowl trophy and earn its 15th consecutive winning season.
Southern Miss cornerback Michael McGee blocked Sam Glusman's 28-yard field goal attempt in overtime to seal the wild victory for the Golden Eagles (video).
"I was really just looking at the outside blocker," McGee said. "He wasn't paying much attention to me. I just tried my best to get there and by the time I got there nobody had knocked me down."
Britt Barefoot stepped up and hit a 46-yard field goal with 2:50 left in the game to tie it at 27-27. Troy (8-5) was unable to get into field-goal territory on the following drive and the game was pushed into overtime.
Barefoot came through once again for the Eagles in the overtime with a 39-yard field goal that proved to be the winning score.
"He made all three of his attempts," USM coach Larry Fedora said. "The last one was shaky, but it went through and that's all that mattered. It's not been the year that Britt would have wanted, but he finished it strong."
Following McGee's block, Southern Miss players and coaches poured onto the field for a big celebration.
Coaches and players played down the streak of 15 straight winning seasons prior to the game, but it was obvious after the game how much it meant to keep it alive.
"We're proud of the fact that we've had 15 straight winning seasons," Fedora said. "G-Mac (Gerald McRath) talked to the players before the game and he said they owed it to the players before them to win this game."
The game had an ugly start for the Golden Eagles as quarterback Austin Davis took the second snap of the game and tried to lateral to running back Tory Harrison, but Troy defensive back Jorrick Calvin stepped in the way and knocked the ball down.
Calvin picked the ball up on the bounce and was free to run 17 yards to give the Trojans a 7-0 lead just 50 seconds into the game.
"It kind of mimics the season we had," Davis said. "We didn't start good, but you have to have a short memory. You're going to face adversity. We still had 14 minutes to go in the first quarter and we were down 7-0. There was no reason to panic."
The Eagles were able to respond quickly on the next drive when Davis hit a wide open Gerald Baptiste for a 64-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 7-7 with 13:22 left in the first quarter.
A wild and wacky first quarter took a somber turn when Southern Miss receiver DeAndre Brown went down with a badly broken leg at the 8:22 mark.
Davis threw a pass 30 yards down field to Brown as he was headed into the end zone, but the freshman from Ocean Springs stumbled and fell to the turf. It was a gruesome injury that left Brown writhing in pain in the end zone as he reached for his leg.
Troy defensive back Tavares Williams approached the injured Brown and immediately placed his hands on his helmet in disbelief as the bone was obviously displaced in his lower leg.
"The only thing I know is it's a break," Fedora said. "I asked him how he's doing and he said he was doing good. He had a smile on his face but his teeth were clinched, so he was in some pain."
Brown was taken to Tulane Medical Center where he was diagnosed with a broken tibia. He was back flown to Hattiesburg immediately after the game to undergo surgery.
The drive fizzled after Brown's injury as USM failed to convert on a fourth down at the Troy 28.
The Trojans took the ball and drove 72 yards on 11 plays and ended it with a 4-yard pass from quarterback Levi Brown to Kennard Burton to regain the lead at 14-7 at the 3:58 mark in the first quarter.
The see-saw affair continued in the second quarter as the Golden Eagles responded with a nine-play, 69-yard drive that ended with an 8-yard touchdown run by Damion Fletcher to tie the game at 14-14 with 14:25 left in the half.
Following a furious start to the game, both offenses slowed the rest of the second quarter. Troy regained the lead at 17-14 on a 20-yard field goal by Glusman with just over three minutes remaining in the first half.
The Eagles put together a 44-yard drive to close out the second half and put Barefoot in position to nail a 38-yard field goal as time ran out and tie the game at 17-17.
Southern Miss outgained Troy in the first 30 minutes as the Eagles put up 276 yards while Troy's fast-paced spread offense had 148 yards.
The third quarter would belong to Troy as Levi Brown continued his sharp passing and the Trojans outgained USM 109-25 in the span of the 15 minutes.
Troy took the second drive of the third quarter and went 63 yards on 11 plays to set up a 34-yard field goal by Glusman.
The Trojans seemed to take complete control of the game when USM punter Brett Hicks' shank of a punt was returned 38 yards by Cornelius Williams to the Eagles' 9-yard line.
Three plays later, Jerrel Jernigan ran 6 yards into the end zone to put the Trojans up 27-17 with 50 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
"It was a wild night," Fedora said. "It's the same way this team was the entire season. They never gave up and never blinked. There was never any doubt in their minds that they would get it done."
USM wouldn't go quietly as Davis, who as named Most Valuable Player for the game, connected with tight end Jonathan Massey on a 35-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 7:20 remaining in the game to cut the lead to 27-24 (video).
It was the same play that was successful against East Carolina as the Eagles lined up in a power formation, but the tight end went on a deep route to catch the defense off guard. Leroy Banks had the scoring reception against the Pirates.
"The first day I took the job I said we were going to attack on offense, defense and special teams," Fedora said. "That's been our philosophy all year and it's not the first time we've gone for it on fourth down.
"I didn't look at it as a calculated risk. It's worked multiple times in practice and it's not the first time it's worked in a game."
|Damion Fletcher scores on 8 yard run in the 2nd period.|
|DuJuan Harris led Trojan rushers.|
|Kennard Burton caught a TD pass to give Troy the lead.||Barefoot's kick gave USM the OT lead.|
|Michael McGee's block of Sam Glusman's field goal attempt won it in overtime.|
Troy- Calvin 17 yard fumble recovery (Glusman kick)
USM- Baptiste 64 yard pass from Davis (Barefoot kick)
Troy- Burton 4 yard pass from Brown (Glusman kick)
USM- Fletcher 8 run (Barefoot kick)
TROY- FG Glusman 20
USM- FG Barefoot 38
TROY- FG Glusman 34
TROY- Jernigan 6 run (Glusman kick)
USM- Massey 35 yard pass from Davis (Barefoot kick)
USM- FG Barefoot 46
USM- FG Barefoot 39
USM- Fletcher 14-78, Davis 18-68, Harrison 5-31
TROY- Harris 19-57, Moreland 4-28, Jernigan 6-24
USM- Davis 20-34-276
TROY- Brown 26-43-255
USM- Baptiste 5-88, Morris 4-61, Parham 3-26, Fletcher 3-23
TROY- Jernigan 9-65, Tate 3-47, Burton 3-30, Harris 3-20