HONOLULU — Austin Davis threw two touchdowns, including a 4-yarder late in the game, and No. 22 Southern Mississippi earned a school-record 12th victory by holding off UNR 24-17 in the Hawaii Bowl on Saturday night.
Davis overcame a shaky start for the Conference USA champion Golden Eagles (12-2), and the defense in the second half shut down UNR’s potent pistol attack led by running back Lampford Mark.
Davis was off most of the night but made it count on the winning drive. On third-and-goal, he scrambled right and found wide receiver Kelvin Bolden for the 4-yard score, capping a seven-play, 68-yard drive. He had just 59 yard passing at halftime and finished 18 of 41 for 165 yards.
On the winning drive, Davis was 3 of 4 for 66 yards, including a 43-yard completion to Dominique Sullivan down the right sideline and a 19-yarder to a crossing William Spight. Sullivan had five catches for 75 yards.
With Davis held in check, the Golden Eagles relied on their defense, stopping Mark on fourth-and-1 at midfield with 3:56 left. Mark ran for 162 yards in the first half but just 21 in the final two quarters.
Quarterback Cody Fajardo was 8 of 19 for 60 yards for UNR (7-6). He also was held to 14 yards rushing on nine carries before being replaced by Tyler Lantrip.
It was the final game for Southern Miss under coach Larry Fedora, who is leaving after four seasons to take over at North Carolina. The Golden Eagles got another big win after capturing their fifth C-USA title by upsetting previously unbeaten Houston 49-28 in the conference championship game. This was the first 10-win season for Southern Miss since 1988.
UNR tied the game 17-17 late in the third quarter on a 37-yard field goal by Allen Hardison, taking advantage of a miscue by Southern Miss. Lampley waved for a fair catch on a punt, and teammate Alex Smith ran into him. The ball bounced off Lampley’s left leg, and UNR’s Brandon Marshall recovered on the Southern Miss 14.
Just as the Wolf Pack seemed to take control, Southern Miss scored 10 points in the final 1½ minutes of the first half to take a 17-14 lead into the break.
Mark’s 45-yard run gave the Wolf Pack a 14-7 lead with about five minutes left in the half, and UNR took the ball right back on the ensuing kickoff.
Lorenzo Devers returned the kickoff 61 yards and appeared to be heading for a touchdown. After shedding the kicker, Devers was stripped from behind by Khalid Wooten, and Thaddeus Brown recovered the ball and returned it 16 yards to the UNR 36.
But the Wolf Pack gambled and ended up turning it over on downs on its 45 when Mark was stopped short on fourth-and-1. That led to a 48-yard field goal by Danny Hrappman with 1:21 left in the half.
On the kickoff, Wooten fumbled and Southern Mississippi’s Emmanuel Johnson recovered at the UNR 24. Seven plays later, Davis threw a 2-yard pass to Lampley in the back of the end zone for the go-ahead score. A brief scuffle broke out between some of the players after the catch, but no one was ejected.
With both teams struggling to get going, special teams got the Golden Eagles on the scoreboard from a blocked punt by Tim Green early in the second quarter.
Green burst through the middle and leaped in the air, getting his hand on the ball as he flipped over a blocker. Tray Becton-Martin then dropped on the ball in the end zone, giving the Golden Eagles a 7-0 lead.SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI — 24
UNR — 17
KEY: Austin Davis put the Golden Eagles ahead to stay with a TD pass to Kelvin Bolden with 5:48 left.