Southern Miss rolls to big win

By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
Nov. 2, 2003
HATTIESBURG The University of Southern Mississippi (5-3, 4-0 Conference USA) used a few tricks as the team treated itself to a post-Halloween win Saturday afternoon.
USM quarterback Dustin Almond completed a pass to himself, head coach Jeff Bower called for a flea-flicker and the Eagles hit their longest field goal of the year en route to a 48-3 win over the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns (2-8, 2-3 Sun Belt.)
"We've been waiting for a breakout game all year," said running back Anthony Harris. "Now we just need to try to keep it going."
The Eagles finished the contest with a season-high 550 yards on offense. Almond completed 11-of-15 passes for 187 yards with three touchdowns, and Harris rushed for 132 yards on 16 carries for his second straight 100-yard rushing performance.
USM wide receiver Marvin Young hauled in four passes for 101 yards with two touchdowns, and Antwon Courington added 78 receiving yards.
"I thought our players were ready to play," Bower said. "They played hard and did a lot of good things in the ballgame. I'm proud of our offense. They ran the ball well and threw it effectively."
USM opened the scoring in the contest four minutes into the first quarter on the strength of Harris' legs and an interesting Dustin Almond pass.
Harris ran the ball five times during the six-play, 31-yard touchdown drive that was set up by cornerback Greg Brooks' interception.
Almond set up Harris' two-yard touchdown leap that capped the drive with a pass to himself. A Louisiana-Lafayette lineman deflected the sophomore quarterback's first pass of the game at the line. Almond caught the ball after it deflected off the defender to move USM from the Ragin' Cajuns four-yard line to the 2, setting up Harris touchdown leap.
"That was luck," Almond said of the pass to himself. "He batted it up, and I didn't want anybody else to catch it. I kind of went in there hoping to catch it and not get my helmet knocked off."
The Eagles scored again on their second offensive series of the game with another six-play drive that covered 40 yards.
Almond hit wide receiver Anthony Perine with a nine-yard scoring pass for a 14-0 lead, with 7:36 left in the first quarter.
USM used trickery to gain its third offensive treat of the contest with 5:24 left in the opening quarter, after starting with the ball on its own 38-yard line.
Almond handed the ball off to Harris for a run up the middle, but the Eagles running back pitched the ball back to the quarterback. Almond let loose a pass down the center of the field to Marvin Young, who scored on the 51-yard toss for a 21-0 lead.
"We worked on it during practice," Young said. "I knew it was coming, and I just hoped the running back had time to pitch it back."
USM and Louisiana-Lafayette traded field goals in the second quarter, with the Eagles' Darren McCaleb hitting a career-long 43-yard kick, and the Ragin' Cajuns' Sean Comiskey tallying a 22-yarder.
Courington padded the Eagles' lead going into the half with his second touchdown reception of the game with 1:40 left in the second quarter.
The 5-foot-10 freshman receiver grabbed a 23-yard pass in the left corner of the end zone from Almond to give USM a 31-3 lead entering the break.
USM produced more of the same offensive fireworks in the second half.
Almond scored on a 21-yard run 1:16 into the third quarter to cap a three-play, 78-yard drive that was highlighted by a 54-yard run from Harris.
Eagles junior quarterback Micky D'Angelo took over the offense on the next series with 12:20 left in the third quarter and a 38-3 lead.
D'Angelo hooked up with Young for a 37-yard touchdown throw in his first series, and he guided USM 52 yards down the field on his next series to set up a 22-yard field goal form McCaleb for a 48-3 lead with 1:58 left in the third quarter.
D'Angelo completed 4-of-6 passes for 63 yards before giving way to freshman quarterback Damion Carter with 23 seconds left in the third. Carter passed for 36 yards, with one interception, closing out the game behind center for USM.
"We couldn't have script it, with our personell, any better in the game," Bower said of using all three quarterbacks. "Dustin had a real good first half. We were able to put Micky in during the third quarter, and we could put Damion in for the fourth quarter. If we could have sat down and planned it, that is how we would have wanted it done."
The Eagles continue their season against Houston, when they return to conference play on the road Saturday.