New Orleans, LA (12/14/04) Dustin Almond passed for 247 yards and Michael Boley had an interception return for a 62-yard touchdown in Southern Mississippi’s 31-10 victory against North Texas in the Wyndham New Orleans Bowl on Tuesday night at the Superdome in front of a crowd of 27,253.
North Texas (7-5) is now 1-3 in its last four bowl appearances, all at the Louisiana Superdome. Southern Mississippi (7-5) takes a 4-3 advantage in the series with the Mean Green.
“Southern Mississippi had an excellent game plan and they executed it extremely well,” said head coach Darrell Dickey. “Our hats are off to Southern Miss. When they play to their potential, they are a tough team to beat.”
The North Texas offense was held to 78 yards rushing and 156 yards passing. Quarterback Scott Hall was sacked five times for 28 yards. The senior was intercepted twice after turning over the ball only two times during the regular season.
Boley intercepted Hall’s first miscue and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter to extend Southern Mississippi’s lead to 24-3. Boley was named the game’s MVP after recording eight tackles and two sacks in the game.
Freshman Jamario Thomas rushed for 92 yards, his lowest game totals since the Sept. 25 game against Baylor when he rushed 10 times for 58 yards. The running back finished his freshman campaign with 1,801 yards, the third most by a freshman in NCAA history.
“We ended up getting behind pretty quick and that threw off our game plan a little,” Dickey said. “They held our offense in check pretty much all night.”
Sophomore Johnny Quinn led the team in receptions with eight, including an 11-yard touchdown pass to end the game. Quinn’s fumble after a punt return led to the Golden Eagles’ final score with two minutes to play in the game. It was Quinn’s first fumble of the season.
The Golden Eagles’ offense scored only seven points in the second half despite putting up 173 yards of total offense. Darren McCaleb missed two field goals in the third quarter from distances of 33 and 42 yards. The field goal kicker was 1-for-4 on the day after going a perfect 15-for-15 in the regular season.
The Mean Green was hurt by the long pass across the middle in the first half. Southern Mississippi’s first touchdown was a 37-yard reception from Almond to Otho Graves nine minutes into the first quarter. Almond’s 47-yard pass to Tavar Williams five minutes later set up a one-yard touchdown run by the quarterback to push the Golden Eagles ahead, 14-0 in the first quarter.
With under a minute left in the first half, Almond connected with Antwon Courington for a 23-yard reception deep into North Texas territory. McCaleb converted his only field goal of the night with a 45-yard kick.
North Texas won the turnover battle, 2-0, in the first half but was only able to convert on one of those opportunities. Senior Andy Blount recovered a fumble by kickoff returnman John Eubanks at NT’s 19-yard line, which led to a Nick Bazuldua field goal from 24 yards. Bazaldua was 1-for-2 on the night, missing a 50-yard kick in the second quarter.
North Texas finished its 2004 campaign with a record of 7-5. It made its fourth straight trip to the New Orleans Bowl after completing a perfect 7-0 record in the Sun Belt Conference.