Golden Eagles win, become bowl eligible once again

Published 4:24 am Sunday, November 12, 2006

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Damion Fletcher rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns as Southern Mississippi defeated Tulane 31-3 Saturday afternoon.

Southern Miss (6-4, 4-2 Conference USA) allowed Tulane’s offense to gain only 85 yards.

“I thought we played really well on defense,” Eagles coach Jeff Bower said. “You hold an offense like that, one that was averaging 36 points a game here, to three points, that’s pretty good.”

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Southern Miss’ defense even outscored Tulane when defensive back LeVance Richmond had a 50-yard fumble return for a touchdown that gave the Eagles a 17-3 lead early in the fourth quarter.

“That was a real big play in the game,” Fletcher said. “It changed the whole game. Our offense couldn’t really get anything going and when he made that play, it really sparked everything. Things just started rolling from there.”

Tulane (3-7, 1-5) played without leading rusher Matt Forte, who has a knee injury, and mostly without quarterback Lester Ricard, who was benched after throwing three incompletions and an interception in his first four attempts.

Ricard’s replacement, Scott Elliott, completed 3-of-8 for 30 yards before Ricard returned after the Golden Eagles had taken a 24-3 midway through the fourth quarter. Ricard finished 1-of-8 for 12 yards.

“Southern Miss’ defensive front just intimidated our whole offense,” Tulane coach Chris Scelfo said. “It was embarrassing. I’m embarrassed to be the coach of this offense. I’m embarrassed for our offensive coaches and players.”

The Golden Eagles took a 7-0 first-quarter lead on Fletcher’s 2-yard touchdown run. They were in position to increase the lead on their next possession, but on fourth-and-goal from the Green Wave 1 David Skeehan stopped Fletcher for a loss of three yards.

Southern Miss got the ball back three plays later when Caleb Hendrix intercepted Ricard at the Tulane 33. That led to Darren McCaleb’s 24-yard field goal and a 10-0 lead.

On the Green Wave’s next possession, Elliott replaced Ricard and the Green Wave converted two fourth downs on the way to Russ Thevenot’s 40-yard field goal that cut the Golden Eagles’ lead to 10-3 at halftime.

Both teams were scoreless in the third quarter. Early in the fourth quarter, Tulane running back Ade Tuyo fumbled and Southern Miss’ LeVance Richmond picked up the ball and ran 50 yards for a touchdown and a 17-3 lead.

Fletcher’s 4-yard touchdown run made it 24-3 with 7:22 remaining, and Tory Harrison’s 10-yard touchdown run completed the scoring with 46 seconds left.

Southern Miss. 7 3 0 21 — 31

Tulane 0 3 0 0 — 3

First Quarter

USM—Fletcher 2 run (McCaleb kick), 8:12.

Second Quarter

USM—FG McCaleb 24, 12:03.

Tul—FG Thevenot 40, 1:37.

Fourth Quarter

USM—Richmond 50 fumble return


kick), 12:02.

USM—Fletcher 4 run (McCaleb kick), 7:22.

USM—T.Harrison 10 run (McCaleb kick),




First downs 26 7

Rushes-yards 50-226 32-43

Passing 167 42

Comp-Att-Int 17-25-0 4-16-1

Return Yards 15 0

Punts-Avg. 0-0.0 6-41.5

Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-1

Penalties-Yards 7-49 11-76

Time of Possession 33:02 26:58