Southern Miss nips UAB, again
By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
Sept. 5, 2003
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. University of Alabama at Birmingham gave it, and Southern Miss took it away.
The Eagles (1-1, 1-0 Conference USA) capitalized on two second-quarter fumbles to propel the program to its fourth-straight win over the Blazers 17-12 Thursday night.
In front of an announced crowd of 42,000 and a national television audience, a light bulb seemed to go off over the heads of USM's offense.
The Eagles racked up 314 yards on 68 plays against the Blazers (1-1, 0-1 C-USA) under the glowing lights of Legion Field.
"I thought once the offense started moving, the defense really fed off of it," said USM quarterback Micky D'Angelo. "Last week, (the defense) played well in the first half, and we had trouble moving the ball. When they saw we scored some points, they started playing the Eagles defense we are used to seeing."
USM finished the game forcing four UAB turnovers, with its biggest coming in the final minute of play.
The Eagles offense stalled on the Blazers 29-yard line with 68 ticks left on the clock. USM opted to go for a fourth-and-four play, but the play clock ran out, moving the team back to UAB's 34.
Eagles' sophomore punter Luke Johnson, who averaged 43.7 yards a punt for the game, sent his kick into the end zone giving the Blazers the ball back on their own 20 with a minute left.
UAB quarterback Darrell Hackney, who finished the game going 23-of-37 for 262 yards, hit wide receiver Jhun Cook with a pass across the middle.
But USM defensive back Seth Cumbie knocked the ball out of Cook's hands, and Etric Pruitt recovered the loose ball on UAB's 34-yard line to seal the win.
"We created three big turnovers in the game," said Eagles head coach Jeff Bower. "One inside the 10 to keep them from scoring, and we set up the next score with a fumble. Obviously, we had that big one there at the end of the ballgame."
The Eagles scored their first touchdown after 49 game minutes of the 2003 season had passed on a two-yard run by running back Tim Blackwell, which was set up by the team's first forced turnover of the contest.
USM's first offensive score of the season was set up by a fumble recovery by defensive back Alex Ray on his own eight-yard line.
D'Angelo proceeded to guide the Eagles 92 yards down field on 10 plays, highlighted by a 42-yard completion to Marvin Young.
"When you are able to run the football like we did tonight, it sets up the play-action pass," D'Angelo said of the score that put the Eagles ahead 7-3 in the opening five minutes of the second quarter. "Once we got that first one in there, it kind of got the ball rolling."
USM went up 14-3 with 6:06 left in the first half on a quick strike.
The Eagles' defense came up with another fumble with 6:14 on the clock. UAB running back Bo Moncur, who notched 78 yards on 12 carries, coughed up the ball on the Blazers 28, and USM linebacker Rod Davis jumped
on the loose ball.
D'Angelo wasted no time find the end zone again.
The junior from Gulfport, who finished the game completing 14-of-20 passes for 197 yards, hit tight end Terrell Browden for a 28-yard scoring strike.
"We were making some plays," said offensive coordinator Rip Scherer. "Micky (D'Angelo) played real solid. It was good to see him make some pick plays.
The one to Marvin (Young), and the touchdown pass to T. Browden."
Along with creating turnovers in the second quarter, USM's defense proved its meddle time and again against UAB.
The Eagles recorded seven tackles for a loss, led by defensive end Ronald Jones with 2.5, and stopped the Blazers from reaching the end zone four out of five times from within the red zone.
"We fell short last week," said Jones, who also recorded 1.5 sacks in the win. "We felt like everybody needed to step it up. The defense, offense and special teams all needed to step it up and play both halves."
USM grabbed a 17-6 lead midway through the third quarter.
After the defense forced the Blazers to punt from their own 46-yard line, the Eagles drove to the opposing team's three-yard line on nine plays.
But a false-start penalty moved USM back to UAB's 7, and the offense couldn't get any closer than the two-yard line.
Eagles kicker Darren McCaleb came on to put a 20-yard kick through the uprights for the 11-point lead.
But UAB came storming back into the game in the fourth quarter.
Hackney engineered an 81-yard, eight-play drive for the Blazers' lone touchdown against the Eagles.
UAB wide receiver Bradly Chavez hauled in an eight-yard pass from the Blazers quarterback to knock the Eagles' lead down to five points, with 5:58 left in the game. UAB attempted a two-point conversion after the score, but Ray deflected Hackney's pass away from his intended target.
Blazers kicker Nick Hayes hit field goals of 30 and 33 yards in the opening half to account for UAB's six first-half points.
Eagles' running back Tim Blackwell led the team's ground game with 88 yards on 20 carries, and James Walley added 28 yards on 19 carries.
USM continues its season against Memphis on Sept. 13 in its season home opener.