Southern Mississippi defense stifles Colorado State
Posted: Friday December 31, 1999 10:26 PM
Southern Mississippi defensive back Chad Williams (right) recovers a fumble and returns it for a touchdown in the first quarter. AP
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Southern Mississippi couldn't get its offense going Friday. The defense didn't have that problem.
The 16th-ranked Golden Eagles scored 10 points off three turnovers and shut down Colorado State's offense in the second half in beating the Rams 23-17 to win the Liberty Bowl for the second time in three years.
Southern Miss (9-3) led only 20-17 at halftime and managed to add a 25-yard field goal by Brant Hanna midway through the third quarter. The defense made it stand up despite spending much of the half on the field against the Rams (8-4).
Colorado State had one last chance to win in the final two minutes, with two downs from the Southern Miss 24. Matt Newton threw incomplete on third down and Southern Miss safety Leo Barnes knocked away a fourth-and-3 pass with 1:15 to play.
The Rams had come into the game as one of the hottest teams in the country, winning five straight to earn a share of the Mountain West Conference title. But the Golden Eagles shut down Colorado State running back Kevin McDougal, who averaged 116 yards a game this season. He got only 59 in the game, just 17 in the second half.
Adalius Thomas led Southern Miss with three sacks, and the special teams also got into the act by blocking a punt and recovering it for a touchdown.
Final statistics were not immediately available as the press box computer, which was certified Y2K compliant, broke down just before the end of the game.
Most of the action took place in a wild first half with the first two punts blocked, a blocked extra point, three turnovers and two TDs on fourth down. Southern Miss led 20-17 at halftime despite not scoring on offense until 26 seconds left in the half.
Southern Miss looked like it would blow the Rams out in the opening minutes as Chad Williams picked up Newton's fumble on Colorado State's fourth play of the game and ran in 5 yards for a touchdown. Then Roy Magee intercepted Newton's pass three plays later.
John Floyd blocked Deone Horinek's punt with 4:35 left in the quarter, putting Southern Miss up 13-3.
But the Golden Eagles, whose offensive coordinator was fired on Christmas Eve, couldn't get their offense going. They had just 15 yards midway through the second quarter.
That gave Colorado State time to collect itself, and the Rams responded with 14 straight points.
A 10-play, 50-yard drive was capped when Frank Rice scored on a 2-yard reverse on fourth-and-goal with 7:45 to go in the second. Rhett Nelson set up the Rams' first lead by intercepting Jeff Kelly's pass at the Colorado State 24 and returning it 41 yards. Three plays later, Newton found Cory Woolstenhulme for a 38-yard TD and a 17-13 lead.
A bit of luck sparked the Golden Eagles just before halftime. Kelly's pass on second-and-10 bounced off Shawn Mills' hands, and Sherrod Gideon caught it for a 19-yard reception and their longest play of the half. Southern Miss took a 20-17 lead into halftime as Derrick Nix scored on a 3-yard run on fourth-and-inches.
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