12:00 PM ET, September 11, 2004
Memorial Stadium, LINCOLN, NE
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Very few teams that visit Nebraska's Memorial Stadium leave a winner, just seven in the last 16 years to be exact.
Despite the numbers, Southern Mississippi coach Jeff Bower liked his team's chances.
"Our kids believed they were going to win," Bower said. "We came up here in '99, and turnovers killed us. It was the other way around today."
Southern Miss converted four of the Cornhuskers' five turnovers into points, beating Nebraska 21-17 Saturday to become the first nonconference opponent to win in Lincoln since 1991.
The Huskers, 102-7 at Memorial Stadium since 1988, lost at home to an unranked opponent for the first time since a 20-16 defeat to Texas in 1998. Washington was the last nonconference foe to beat Nebraska at home.
"We showed if we make errors, we can get beat by lower opponents," Nebraska defensive tackle Le Kevin Smith said.
Dustin Almond threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Young with 7:47 left and Southern Mississippi, which saw a 9-3 halftime lead evaporate in the third quarter, made a defensive stand in the final minute to preserve the win.
The Eagles had come into Lincoln five years ago and led much of the game before losing 20-13.
Saturday's victory wasn't secure until Southern Miss linebacker Dillon Cleckler chased quarterback Joe Dailey out of bounds short of the first-down marker on fourth-and-long with 37 seconds left.
"We want the game to be on us," linebacker Antoine Cash said of the Eagles' defense. "That's what we've been waiting for all week. We want the game to be on us in the fourth quarter."
Linebacker Michael Boley said he pleaded with his teammates as the Huskers moved down the field in the late going.
"We were giving up a lot of yards early in drives, and there comes a point where we say we have to stop them and create some type of play," Boley said. "I was telling the players in the huddle, 'Fight, scratch. Don't let them in the end zone.' "
Southern Miss won despite being outgained 476-239.
"We beat those guys fair and square, but at the same time, we beat ourselves," Dailey said. "We had the game in our pocket. It's all about fundamentals. You can dress it up and say what you want, but when it comes down to it, you've got to take care of the football."
Coach Bill Callahan won his first game with the Cornhuskers 56-17 over Division I-AA Western Illinois last week. The new-look Huskers and their West Coast Offense had a much tougher time against more suitable competition.
"This is a game that was there for the taking, and we gave it away," Callahan said. "There's nobody to look at but ourselves."
Nebraska started its last drive at its 41 with 3:18 left and moved to the Southern Miss 12. Darrell Bennett, who had two fumble recoveries earlier in the fourth quarter, got his right hand in front of Terrance Nunn to break up an end-zone pass. Then Caleb Hendrix made up ground quickly to deflect a ball away from Matt Herian in the corner of the end zone.
"We hung in there," Bower said. "It was a little like last year on defense -- bend but don't break. We gave them some yards, but we made plays and created turnovers."
Almond was 12-of-28 for 142 yards, with one interception and one touchdown. Anthony Harris led the Eagles with 72 yards on 19 carries.
Dailey was 22 of 42 for 202 yards and two touchdowns. He was intercepted three times after being picked off four times by Western Illinois last week. His 42 attempts tied the school record.
Cory Ross rushed for a career-high 169 yards on 27 carries and Herian caught a career-high eight passes for 71 yards and a touchdown.
Nebraska went up 17-9 on Dailey's two touchdown passes on the Cornhuskers' first two series of the second half.
All three of Dailey's interceptions led to Southern Miss points, including Naton Stewart's 49-yard interception return for a touchdown at the end of the third quarter that pulled the Eagles to 17-15. Dailey was trying to pass to Nunn on the play.
"I thought they were coming on an all-out blitz, and I was ready to bang my crossing route," Dailey said. "That guy [Stewart] came out of nowhere and took it from me."
The Eagles got the ball back when Bennett recovered Tierre Green's fumble at the Nebraska 49. Two plays later, Almond lofted the go-ahead touchdown to Young.
Darren McCaleb kicked field goals of 39, 41 and 21 yards in the first half for the Golden Eagles.
Dailey threw touchdown passes of 9 yards to Grant Mulkey and 13 yards to Herian to give the Huskers a 17-9 lead early in the third quarter.
"They played great defense, I've got to hand it to them," Mulkey said. "We hurt ourselves. We would have won the game if we had executed."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||6-17||7-17|
|4th Down Conversions||0-0||1-4|
|FG||5:21||DARREN MCCALEB 39 YD FG|
Drive info: 7 plays, 11 yards.
|FG||3:14||DARREN MCCALEB 41 YD FG|
Drive info: 4 plays, 3 yards.
|FG||14:50||SANDRO DEANGELIS 35 YD FG|
Drive info: 9 plays, 52 yards.
|FG||1:42||DARREN MCCALEB 21 YD FG|
Drive info: 13 plays, 64 yards.
|TD||11:29||GRANT MULKEY 9 YD PASS FROM JOE DAILEY (SANDRO DEANGELIS KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 73 yards.
|TD||10:00||MATT HERIAN 13 YD PASS FROM JOE DAILEY (SANDRO DEANGELIS KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 28 yards.
|TD||0:00||NATON STEWART 49 YD INTERCEPTION RETURN (FAILED 2PT RUSH)||15||17|
|TD||7:47||MARVIN YOUNG 46 YD PASS FROM DUSTIN ALMOND (FAILED 2PT PASS)|
Drive info: 2 plays, 51 yards.