Published 12:00 am Friday, September 26, 2003
HATTIESBURG &045; Anyone, anywhere, anytime &045; misery doesn’t care.
Southern Miss’ trademark phrase was more indicative of how bad things went Thursday against Nebraska. What was billed as the biggest game in the program’s history in front of a nationally televised audience had enough miscues and mistakes to make head coach Jeff Bower’s face as red as much of the South upper deck at M.M. Roberts Stadium.
The Cornhuskers took advantage of just about every miscue for a 38-14 win.
&uot;They played better than us and deserved to win the game,&uot; USM head coach Jeff Bower said. &uot;I extend my congratulations to Nebraska. They’re a good football team and played hard. I thought our team played hard, but I don’t think you’ll ever win when you have that many mistakes. We didn’t play with a lot of poise.&uot;
Things went wrong at just about every time possible for the Eagles, and they ran the gamut &045; fumbles, interceptions, dropped passes, false starts and blown coverages. The Cornhuskers were able to show the nation they’re not just the option team they’re cracked up to be, and the offense found holes in the much-heralded Southern Miss defense.
For the most part the game was a bust &045; just like Nebraska did with two touchdown passes at the start of the second half.
And to add insult to injury, reserve running back Robin Miller put up a 47-yard touchdown run with 1:48 left in the game.
&uot;Our job is to go out there and get the job done, and we didn’t get it done,&uot; USM defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix said. &uot;I think we’ve got to create some turnovers and create a short field. We had some penalties that hurt us in the first quarter, and we didn’t have any turnovers. It didn’t make a difference (how we played) &045; we lost.&uot;
Give the Cornhuskers credit, though. They came into a hostile environment that was the largest crowd in the history of The Rock &045; 36,152 &045; and executed well. Jammal Lord did it with the run and the pass, and his two deep passes at the start of the second half virtually put the game away after Nebraska held a 17-7 lead at the break.
&uot;The humidity was very high, but I thought we held up very well along those lines,&uot; NU head coach Frank Solich said. &uot;We had lapses throughout the course of the game where maybe we didn’t play as well and they played pretty well, but all in all I think it was a great effort by our players. I’m very proud of what they were able to accomplish tonight.&uot;
The Golden Eagles went down with a glimmer of hope when they inserted true freshman Damion Carter in at quarterback and scored late. Carter, in for the slumping Dustin Almond, hit Caleb Hendrix with a 6-yard pass with 2:43 left to cut the lead to 31-14.
But as far as the QB situation, Bower didn’t budge.
&uot;I knew that was going to be the first question,&uot; Bower snapped. &uot;Please don’t start that. We haven’t talked the kids and hadn’t talked to the coaches.&uot;
The quarterback talk of the night was just as much centered on Lord and the two deep passes that put the game away. After the Huskers pounded away with the option and the running game in the first half, the Huskers went deep on their first play of the second drive when Lord hit Ross Pilkington for a 44-yard touchdown pass.
The Eagles fumbled on their next drive to give the ball to Nebraska at the USM 44, and Lord connected on another 44-yard pass &045; this time to Isaiah Fluellen &045; for another score with 7:59 left for a 31-7 lead.
&uot;We kind of had an idea they would come out and do some passing,&uot; USM safety Etric Pruitt said. &uot;It’s just something we’ve got to work on for next game. They pounded it about 10 times, and I look up and they’re going to pass. I give the whole Nebraska offense credit for catching us off guard like that.&uot;
Things couldn’t have gone worse for the Eagles in the first quarter after they were looking up at a 17-0 deficit before playing a down past the 50. They had a fumble, shanked punt and an interception on their first three drives and didn’t get a first down until midway through the second quarter.
The Cornhuskers took advantage of the first miscue and put it in for a score on Jammal Lord’s 5-yard run. The Eagles then punted, but Luke Johnson’s punt went just 13 yards to give the Huskers the ball at the USM 47.
The Eagles held on that drive, but Nebraska got a 40-yard field goal from David Dyches for a 10-0 lead. Almond then had a pass picked off by Josh Bullocks and returned to the USM 4, and David Horne took it in from 3 yards out for a score for the 17-0 lead with 7:20 left.
&uot;We had too many turnovers, two on quarterback-center exchanges,&uot; Bower said. &uot;They’re a good field position team and played hard. We gave them the short field the entire first quarter. I think considering the field position we held up OK on defense. Played pretty well the second quarter. The third quarter we kick off, and they get great field position.&uot;
It was the Eagles that had the short field position near the end of the first half and took advantage. Almond, who completed just four of 24 passes and had two picked off, tried to get into the end zone twice when the Eagles had it inside the 1 but couldn’t do it.
Fortunately for the Eagles, Nebraska was called for a penalty each time. Almond then handed it to Tim Blackwell, who ran in for the score with 1:57 left to cut the leadto 17-7 at half.
&uot;I think Coach Bower and his staff are doing a great job with the football program,&uot; Solich said. &uot;It’s obvious they’re a competent football team, and they play like the slogan says &045; anyone, anywhere, anytime &045; and I give credit to them.&uot;
Just use the slogan correctly.