By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The University of Cincinnati defense couldn't have played much better.
George Murray II pulls in a Gino Guidugli pass and looks for a first down during the first half.
(Thomas E. Witte photos)
| ZOOM |
Tyjuan Hagler and Jermaine Wilson sack USM quarterback Damion Carter.
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After getting burned for an average of 499 yards in their last two games, the Bearcats held Southern Miss to 200 yards and just eight first downs, but it wasn't enough to earn the Bearcats a Conference USA win they needed and felt they deserved.
Forced to play most of the fourth quarter without quarterback Gino Guidugli and running back Richard Hall, the Bearcats were held scoreless in the second half and fell to Southern Miss, 22-20, Saturday night before 24,522 fans at Nippert Stadium.
The Golden Eagles, who recovered from a 20-6 first-half deficit, won the game on a 26-yard field goal by Darren McCaleb with 1:10 to go.
UC (3-2, 1-1 in Conference USA) has lost two straight. Southern Miss (3-2, 3-0) is in first place in the league.
"We definitely had their number," said UC cornerback Daven Holly. "There wasn't too much they could really do on us. We were all over the field, but there were a few plays here and there that the difference."
Hall left the game late in the third quarter with a concussion. He gained 114 yards on a career-high 34 carries, his second straight 100-yard game and third of the season.
Guidugli suffered a sprained left knee with 2:33 left in the third quarter when he was hit from behind by Southern Miss linebacker Rod Davis while rolling out and attempting to pass.
The UC quarterback walked off the field and briefly returned to the locker room under his own power. He returned to the sideline at the 14:10 mark of the fourth quarter with his knee wrapped, but was replaced at quarterback by wide receiver George Murray.
Without Hall, the UC coaches decided to reduce their offensive approach to quarterback runs by Murray, who was recruited as a quarterback before being shifted to wide receiver.
Murray did drive the Bearcats to the Southern Miss 27, but Chet Ervin's 44-yard field goal attempt was wide to the right with 5:46 to go, setting the stage for Southern Miss' game-winning drive.
"If we hit that field goal, it may be enough," Minter said. On the drive that led to Ervin's missed field goal, all five plays were Murray runs.
"After the game, the Southern Miss players told me they knew what we were going to do," Murray said, "but it was still hard to stop it."
Minter said the conservative approach was in deference to Southern Miss' defense.
Following McCaleb's field goal, Guidugli returned to the game with 1:03 left and drove UC to the Southern Miss 49, but Trevis Coley intercepted Guidugli's pass, intended for Bill Poland, at the Southern Miss 27, to end UC's comeback.
CIN-FG Manfredini 20, 7:58
CIN-Holly 20 interception return (Manfredini kick), 7:38
USM-Harris 3 pass from Carter (kick failed), 5:36
CIN-FG Ervin 37, 1:04.
CIN-Hall 39 pass from Guidugli (Manfredini kick), 12:34
USM-Eubanks 9 kickoff return (McCaleb kick), 12:21
USM-FG McCaleb 21, 1:09.
USM-FG McCaleb 28, 14:10
USM-FG McCaleb 26, 1:19.
|Time of Possession||24:40||35:20|
RUSHING-S. Mississippi, Moore 5-41, Harris 3-7, Almond 8-5, Walley 12-3, team 1-(minus 2), Carter 3-(minus 10). Cincinnati, Hall 34-114, Murray 11-68, Eddington 3-16, Guidugli 4-8, Vann 2-7, Daniels 1-(minus 1) .
PASSING-USM, Almond 9-16-0-133, Carter 3-6-1-23. UC, Guidugli 11-25-2-106 .
RECEIVING-S. Mississippi, Young 6-95, Lawrence 3-20, Johnson 1-26, Courington 1-12, Harris 1-3. Cincinnati, Murray 3-35, Ross 3-24, Hall 2-36, Poland 2-12, Dawley 1-(minus 1).
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