Jeff Kelly’s bomb to Kenny Johnson lifts USM past TCU

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 20, 2000

The Associated Press

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) – Jeff Kelly’s 29-yard touchdown pass to freshman Kenny Johnson with eight seconds left lifted Southern Mississippi to a 28-21 victory over No. 13 Texas Christian in the Mobile Alabama Bowl on Wednesday night.

In the first major bowl game of the season, TCU tailback LaDanian Tomlinson ran for 118 yards, his lowest total of the season. The Heisman Trophy finalist carried 28 times and scored two TDs in the third quarter.

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The Golden Eagles (8-4) got a second chance after a fourth missed field goal, and trusted their senior quarterback instead of the shaky kicking game.

With 33 seconds left, they took over at the TCU 43-yard line after Mobile native Etric Pruitt got a hand on Mark Haulman’s punt.

Kelly threw two incompletions, then scrambled 14 yards for a first down. On the next play, he lofted a perfect strike over the middle just above safety LaVar Veale’s outstretched arm, victimizing the nation’s top defense.

The Horned Frogs (10-2) endured a December coaching change and uncertainty over who would lead them into the game. In the end, former defensive coordinator Gary Patterson replaced Dennis Franchione on the sidelines.

Kelly had a big fourth quarter. He was 7-of-15 for 40 yards after three quarters.

Then, he hit LeRoy Handy on a 56-yard TD strike with 7:24 left, tying it at 21. Kelly also hit Handy on a 9-yarder in the third quarter, finishing 11-of-23 for 159 yards.

Southern Miss had two chances for a go-ahead score with just over two minutes left. For the fourth time, Brant Hanna kicked a low line drive, this one a 32-yarder that failed to clear TCU’s defensive line.