Middle Tenn. beats Southern Miss

Published 1:19 am Monday, December 21, 2009

NEW ORLEANS — Dwight Dasher ran for a bowl-record 201 yards and two touchdowns and threw two scoring passes to lead Middle Tennessee to a 42-32 victory over Southern Mississippi in the New Orleans Bowl on Sunday night.

Dasher completed 15 of 25 for 162 yards and ran 26 times. He finished the season with 1,175 yards rushing. His rushing total for the game was the most for a quarterback in a bowl game, breaking the old mark of 200 yards set by Vince Young in the 2006 Rose Bowl.

Middle Tennessee (10-3), playing in the second bowl game in school history, concluded its best season since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1999 with a seven-game winning streak and its first bowl victory.

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Southern Miss (7-6) was playing in its eighth straight bowl game and 12th in the last 13 seasons. The Golden Eagles had won their three previous New Orleans Bowls, including an overtime win against Troy last season.

Southern Miss running back Damion Fletcher ran for 78 yards and became the ninth player in major college football to reach 1,000 in all four seasons. He did it despite a hamstring injury that caused him to sit out one game this season.

Martevious Young completed 18 of 34 for 271 yards and three touchdowns for the Golden Eagles. He was intercepted twice.

Southern Miss started strong, scoring on their first possession as Tory Harrison rushed for a 2-yard touchdown. On their second possession the Golden Eagles stretched their lead to 14-0 on a 24-yard reception by DeAndre Brown.

The Blue Raiders pulled even in the second quarter on an 11-yard reception by Garrett Anders, and — after Alex Suber intercepted Young on the Southern Miss 12 — a 9-yard TD catch by Shane Blissard.

Southern Miss held a 17-14 edge at halftime thanks to Daniel Hrapmann’s 20-yard field goal as time expired.

Dasher opened the third quarter with a 35-yard touchdown run. When Dasher left briefly with an ankle injury, Brent Burnette capped 76-yard scoring drive with a 23-yard TD pass to Chris McClover.

Hrapmann hit a 38-yard field goal to cut the Blue Raiders lead to 28-20 at the end of three quarters.

Southern Miss had a chance to tie it early in the fourth, making it 28-26 on Brown’s 7-yard TD reception, but the 2-point conversion failed.

Benjamin Cunningham and Dasher ran for touchdowns to make it 42-26 for Middle Tennessee.

USM added a final score with 27 seconds.

The Blue Raiders’ victory gives the Sun Belt Conference three victories against Conference USA in the last four New Orleans Bowls.