MTSU Dashes Past Southern Miss
by Dave Congrove
December 21, 2009
Middle Tennessee QB Dwight Dasher threw for 2 TD's and ran for 2 more in a 42-32 upset win over Southern Miss in the New Orleans Bowl. In the process, Dasher broke Vince Young's QB bowl rushing record with 201 yards and USM's Damion Fletcher became just the 9th player to rush for 1,000 yards in all four seasons.
Southern Miss jumped out front 14-0 with scores on its first two possessions and held that lead until early in the 2nd quarter when Dasher and Garret Andrews teamed up for an 11-yard score. After forcing a Southern Miss punt, the Blue Raiders drove to the Golden Eagles' 14-yard line where a 31-yard field goal attempt was blocked. However, MTSU DB Alex Suber intercepted Southern Miss QB Martevious Young on the next play. Moments later, Dasher connected with Shane Blissard for a 9-yard TD and a 14-14 tie.
Southern Miss closed the first half with a 9-play, 57-yard drive to the Middle Tennessee 3-yard line, but had to
settle for a 20-yard field goal as the half expired.
The Blue Raiders took the lead for good just 4 plays into the 2nd half on a 35-yard run by Dasher. After a 38-yard Danny Hrapmann field goal cut MTSU's lead to 21-20, and an exchange of punts, Dasher left the game with an ankle injury. He would return on the next Middle Tennessee series, but in the meantime, Brent Burnette entered and went 2-for-2 passing for 45 yards. He hit Chris McClover for a 23-yard touchdown on his second attempt for a 28-20 lead at the end of the 3rd quarter.
The Golden Eagles missed a chance to knot the score at 28 with just under 7 minutes left to play when a failed 2-point conversion attempt followed Young's 7-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Brown. Then, Dasher took over with an 80-yard drive in which he ran 5 times for 60 yards and passed once for 18 to move MTSU to the Southern Miss 2-yard line. Benjamin Cunningham punched it in from there for a 35-26 lead with only 3:14 left in the game.
Young threw his second interception on the first play of the next series to set the Blue Raiders up at the 5-yard line. Three plays later, Dasher made it 42-26 on a 1-yard run. Southern Miss added a 33-yard TD pass from Young to Freddie Parham with 27 seconds left to finish the scoring.
Southern Miss' Fletcher rushed for 78 yards to finish the year with 1,015 and become just the 9th player in history to top the 1,000-yard rushing mark in each of his 4 college seasons. His 5,302 career yards put him in 8th-place in the NCAA career rushing list, passing Herschel Walker and LaDanian Tomlinson.
Middle Tennessee extended its winning streak to 7 games with its first bowl victory (1-1) and secured a 10-win season (10-3).
Southern Miss dropped to 9-11 in bowl games with its first New Orleans Bowl loss in four appearances. The Golden Eagles closed the year on a 2-game losing streak and finished 7-6 for a third consecutive season. Former head coach Jeff Bower stepped down two years ago amidst criticism from a fan base that was growing tired of not getting past mediocre. Southern Miss has gone either 7-5, 7-6 or 6-5 in seven of its last nine seasons.