3:00 PM ET, November 26, 2005
M.M. Roberts Stadium, HATTIESBURG, MS
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) -- Southern Mississippi had one final chance to qualify for a bowl game and Tulane could do little to stop the Golden Eagles on Saturday.
Dustin Almond threw for 276 yards and a touchdown and Darren McCaleb kicked four field goals to help Southern Miss become bowl eligible in a 26-7 victory over the Green Wave in a game pushed back by Hurricane Katrina.
Southern Mississippi (6-5, 5-3 Conference USA) extended its string of winning seasons to 12 and appear headed to its fourth straight postseason trip.
"It was a great job by our guys, and having that many [winning] seasons in a row is really special," said Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower. "This [6-5] is probably not where we wanted to be, but it was an unusual year. I think this team has shown a lot of heart to get here."
The Golden Eagles and Green Wave (2-9, 1-7) were supposed to play Sept. 4, but that became impossible after Katrina tore through Louisiana and Mississippi the week before. Katrina and Hurricane Rita wreaked havoc on the schedules for both teams.
Southern Miss was forced to finish its season with nine games in nine weeks and Tulane was displaced by Katrina. The Green Wave played 11 games in 11 stadiums this season, losing eight straight since beating I-AA Southeastern Louisiana on Oct. 1.
"I was disappointed in our number of wins and losses this year, but never our effort," Tulane coach Chris Scelfo said. "Our guys hung in for the duration. This is a group of guys that showed a lot of character and really persevered."
Cole Mason got Southern Mississippi going early with 1-yard run to put the Golden Eagles up 7-0 after one quarter. McCaleb booted three field goals in the second quarter, one from 33 yards and a pair from 41 yards out, to give Southern Miss a 16-0 halftime lead.
McCaleb's first kick was set up by a 75-yard completion from Almond to Damien Carter which put USM at the Tulane 17.
Almond, a senior, made his last home appearance a memorable one, completing 18-of-30 passes. He hooked up with tight end Shawn Nelson on a 63-yard scoring strike midway through the third quarter, giving Southern Miss a 23-0 lead. Nelson had five receptions for 113 yards.
"We just weren't going to be the class that ended the [winning] streak," Almond said. "We knew we had a past to live up to, one that we had to carry on."
McCaleb ended the scoring with a 34-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
Matt Forte finished with 137 yards rushing on 27 carries for Tulane, but Southern Mississippi's defense limited the Green Wave to just 18 yards passing in the first half.
In his first start at tailback for Southern Miss, Cody Hull rushed for 85 yards.
The Golden Eagles haven't had a losing season since going 3-7-1 in 1993.
With six C-USA teams available for five bowl tie-ins, Southern Miss must now await the bowl maneuverings to see if it lands somewhere.
"There's no doubt we are expecting to go somewhere," Bower said. "With the consistency of this program ... we deserve to be in a bowl."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||2-11||10-18|
|4th Down Conversions||1-2||1-1|
|TD||1:13||COLE MASON 1 YD RUN (DARREN MCCALEB KICK)|
Drive info: 10 plays, 35 yards.
|FG||8:35||DARREN MCCALEB 33 YD FG|
Drive info: 8 plays, 85 yards.
|FG||3:35||DARREN MCCALEB 41 YD FG|
Drive info: 7 plays, 24 yards.
|FG||0:00||DARREN MCCALEB 41 YD FG|
Drive info: 6 plays, 32 yards.
|TD||4:47||SHAWN NELSON 63 YD PASS FROM DUSTIN ALMOND (DARREN MCCALEB KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||3:07||DAMARCUS DAVIS 23 YD PASS FROM LESTER RICARD (JACOB HARTGROVES KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 65 yards.
|FG||6:19||DARREN MCCALEB 34 YD FG|
Drive info: 8 plays, 38 yards.