Backup Carter throws winning TD pass in OT

HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- Damion Carter came on in an emergency and saved Southern Mississippi's perfect start.

Carter, the Golden Eagles' backup quarterback, threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Otho Graves in overtime, giving Southern Mississippi a 35-29 victory over Houston on Thursday night.

It was just Carter's third pass of the season, and his only attempt of the game, but it helped Southern Miss win its fourth straight to start the season, the first time the Golden Eagles have done that since 1981. Southern Miss has won 12 straight in Conference USA play since 2002.

"Being the No. 2, you know you're always only one play away," Carter said. "I try to go out there with the same poise and confidence that Dustin goes out there with and be a team leader."

Southern Miss (4-0, 3-0 C-USA), which blew a 14-point lead and trailed for most of the second half, forced overtime on starting quarterback Dustin Almond's 18-yard touchdown run with 1:22 remaining and Anthony Harris' game-tying 2-point conversion run.

Almond pulled a hamstring in his left leg on the TD run, forcing Carter into the game.

Carter "was really cool. I think he cherished the opportunity to go in there and make some plays," Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower said. "We wanted to run our offense and do the things that Damion does best."

Southern Miss got the ball first in overtime and scored when Carter rolled right and hit Graves, who made a fingertip grab in the back of the end zone. Dustin McCaleb's extra-point was blocked.

"I don't know how I managed to get one leg in, but I made a big play," Graves said.

Houston then advanced to the Southern Miss 15 before faltering with two plays for negative yardage, a false-start penalty and two incompletions.

"We should have had some momentum entering the overtime (because) we got the blocked extra point," said Kendal Briles, Houston's backup quarterback-turned-multipurpose threat and the son of coach Art Briles.

Southern Miss fans stormed the field after Kevin Kolb's final pass sailed out of the end zone.

Kolb was 19-of-36 for 345 yards and a touchdown for the Cougars (1-5, 1-2), who rallied from a 21-7 deficit and led 29-21 before Almond's touchdown run.

"I thought we had it wrapped up, because our defense was playing well," Kendal Briles said.

Vincent Marshall had four catches for 190 yards, turning several short slants into long gains for the Cougars, who haven't beaten Southern Miss since 1996.

"To play that hard and then lose, it hurts," Marshall said.

Briles -- used by his father as a multipurpose threat -- caught 10 passes for 101 yards and ran for 24 yards and a touchdown.

"The only way we're going to feel good is if we had one more point than they had, and we didn't have that tonight," Art Briles said. "They did what they had to do on defense to win the game, and we didn't."

Houston had 518 yards to the Golden Eagles' 338.

Southern Miss -- which entered giving up an average of 148 passing yards -- allowed more than that (206) by halftime.

Almond was 16-of-28 for 169 yards with a touchdown to Antwon Courington for the Golden Eagles, who scored three of the first four times they touched the ball.

"We just cannot keep getting behind early like that, because it takes so much energy to catch up that it drains you a little bit," Art Briles said.

John Eubanks returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown for the Golden Eagles.

Dustin Bell had field goals of 37, 39 and a school-record 53 yards for Houston.


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