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Bad timing dooms USM

By Staff
PANCAKED Southern Mississippi's Alex Ray (14), Etric Pruitt (28), Rod Davis (24) and Eric Scott (92) tackle Alabama tailback Ray Hudson during the first half in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. Photo by AP
By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
October 13, 2003
In all earnestness the numbers were not that daunting.
The University of Southern Mississippi (3-3, 3-0 Conference USA) was flagged just three times for a loss of 30 yards in its 17-3 loss to Alabama on Saturday.
The Eagles were penalized 69 yards against the University of Alabama at Birmingham in their first win of the year, and they endured 55 yards in penalties against Cincinnati in a 22-20 comeback win the week before playing the Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
It wasn't the number of yards lost due to laundry being thrown on the field, it was the time the penalties occurred that doomed USM to drop another game on Alabama's home field.
The untimely mishaps began in the fourth quarter.
USM began a drive from its own 29-yard line just 37 seconds into the game's final stanza, with Alabama holding a 10-3 lead.
Almond shot the Eagles up to their own 49 with a 20-yard pass to wide receiver Antwon Courington, who had a game-high nine catches for 90 yards.
A few short runs, a seven-yard pass to Courington and a 10-yard penalty against Alabama, which was only flagged twice in the game, moved the ball to the Tide's 39.
Almond hung onto the ball after a one-yard gain, and the 212-pounder rumbled for a hard-fought seven-yard gain. But the play was called back on a holding penalty changing the Eagles' third-and-two to a second-and-18.
Eagles running back Timothy Blackwell was hit behind the line for a five-yard loss the next play setting up a third-and-23 situation, and Almond's pass was off target to Courington forcing USM to punt.
A flag flew again, a little late and under the radar of nearly every USM player, with 8 1/2 minutes left in the contest, as Alabama held a 17-3 advantage.
Eagles free safety Eric Pruitt fielded a kick off, following the Tide's final score of the game that was set up by a blocked punt, in his own end zone.
The 6-foot-1, 188-pound senior sprung free on the right sideline around the Eagles' 24-yard line, and he didn't stop until he reached the Tide's end zone for a 100-yard return for a touchdown.
Six points were added to USM's side of the score board, the point-after kicking team ran onto the field, high-fives were exchanged on the sideline and then all eyes turned down field were a yellow flag stuck out on the green grass.
The Eagles were marched back to their own 14-yard line, the six points were erased from the scoreboard and the rest as the say was history.
USM takes a much needed week off before playing South Florida on Oct. 25.