Houston 27

(4-3, 1-2 away)

Southern Miss 31

(4-2, 3-0 home)

7:00 PM ET, October 14, 2006

M. M. Roberts Stadium, Hattiesburg, MS

1 2 3 4 T
HOU 7 0 7 1327
USM 7 7 3 1431

Top Performers

Passing: K. Kolb (HOU) - 339 YDS, 2 TD

Rushing: J. Battle (WEST) - 13 CAR, 39 YDS, 2 TD

Receiving: J. Harvey (HOU) - 5 REC, 174 YDS, 2 TD

Southern Miss 31, Houston 27

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) -- Houston quarterback Kevin Kolb is one of the most watched quarterbacks in the nation, but Southern Miss' Jeremy Young proved he deserves a little attention too.

The junior threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as the Golden Eagles held off a late rally Saturday in a key 31-27 Conference USA victory. The win came after a rough 10 days for Southern Miss, which lost two players to suspensions and two more to dismissals.

In his last game, a 20-6 loss to Tulsa, Young was pulled after struggling with a turf toe injury. Young ducked out of bounds a few times Saturday, but otherwise showed he is recovering with 180 yards passing and another 20 yards on the ground that included two key first-down runs.

"He looked a lot better," Bower said. "I don't think he's back to 100 percent but obviously he's better."

And it showed as the Golden Eagles returned to the top of the Eastern Division standings. His first touchdown pass -- a 22-yarder to Josh Barnes with 4:14 remaining in the second quarter -- lifted the Golden Eagles (4-2, 2-1 C-USA) to a 14-7 halftime lead over the Cougars (4-3, 2-1), who have lost three straight.

His second -- a 16-yard pass to Shawn Nelson with 3:46 remaining in the game -- clinched the win, negating a late charge by Kolb. The Cougars senior threw for 161 of his 339 yards in the fourth quarter alone, hitting Jeron Harvey for two touchdowns.

Young and backup tailback Conrad Chanove kept Houston at bay in the first half while the team waited for the return of top rusher Damion Fletcher and top receiver Nelson, who had been suspended for a half on a curfew violation.

The Golden Eagles picked up their first score 4:12 into the game after Cougars long snapper Norby Juist sailed the ball over punter Justin Laird's head. About 30 yards later, Southern Miss recovered the ball at the Houston 1 and fullback Bobby Weakley punched it in for a 7-0 lead.

The score snapped a streak of six straight quarters without an offensive touchdown.

"When you give them seven points at the start it puts you behind the eight ball," Houston coach Art Briles said. "We had to play catch-up the rest of the night."

Houston answered with a 5-yard touchdown run by tailback Jackie Battle, who scored twice in the game.

But after a failed fourth-down attempt at the Southern Miss 26, Young completed 4 of 5 passes and hit a crucial third-down pass to set up his score to Barnes for the 14-7 halftime lead.

"There wasn't any extra pressure," Young said. "Guys have to step up and make plays."

After Young dove in from the 1 with 10:47 remaining in the game to make it 24-14, Kolb hit a quick strike to Harvey to start the Cougars' rally. The 74-yard pass with 9:15 left cut Southern Miss' lead to 7.

On the next drive, Young hit Josh Barnes with a 39-yard pass to push Southern Miss deep into Houston territory. It appeared to coaches and players on the Houston sideline that Barnes fumbled and the Cougars recovered. But referees called the play dead and didn't allow a review because of an early whistle.

Six plays later Young hit Nelson for the clinching touchdown, though Kolb would hit Harvey again as time ran out to pull within four. Briles was livid after the call and was also upset that the officials did not allow the team to kick the extra point.

"They called it down on the field," he said. "The (official) on our sideline had it as a fumble and the other guy called it down, and our guy let the other guy overrule him. It was a clear-cut fumble."

Kolb, who made his nation-leading 43rd consecutive start, has now passed 178 times without an interception, a school record.

Fletcher, who came in as the nation's No. 9 rusher, finished with a season-low 80 yards on 21 carries.

The win capped a week marred by the suspensions, injuries to Young and his backup and the dismissal of a pair of reserves after they were charged for aggravated assault.

Bower hopes the turbulence is over as they travel to No. 22 Virginia Tech next week.

"It was a different week," Bower said. "There were some things happening around due to distractions. I think that the players did a good job and the players did a nice job. We put that stuff behind us and got ready to win."