UAB upsets No. 22 Southern Mississippi 34-31

Southern Mississippi couldn’t put away UAB or the division

title.

The 22nd-ranked Golden Eagles jumped to a quick two-touchdown

lead, cashed in on a couple of gambles and still lost 34-31 on

Thursday night after a frantic final try.

Southern Miss (9-2, 5-2 Conference USA) can still secure its

first East Division title since 2006 and a spot in the C-USA

championship game with a win over Memphis. The Golden Eagles, who

had won eight straight, would have preferred getting it over

with.

”They knew what was at stake, they knew what had to be done,”

Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora said. ”They knew we hadn’t

changed anything from the first week to this week, and it’s my job

to figure out why they weren’t ready.”

Ty Long kicked a 38-yard field goal with 3:04 left after a drive

that consumed nearly half of the final quarter, and UAB held

on.

The Blazers (3-8, 3-5 Conference USA) earned their second

victory against a ranked team, having beaten No. 17 East Carolina

36-17 in 1999.

”We don’t get down. We just kind of roll,” Blazers coach Neil

Callaway said. ”Obviously, that’s not a good way to start. But

you’ve got the (two) turnovers, you’ve got the fake kick, you’ve

got all those things. We give up some yardage but we kind of find a

way to keep them out of the end zone.”

The Golden Eagles pushed the ball across midfield twice in the

final minutes, but Austin Davis’ fourth-down pass was broken up by

Jamie Bender. Davis’ run for what would have been a first down was

negated by Jason Weaver’s chop block, setting up third-and-20 from

the Southern Miss 41.

UAB ran the clock down to 11 seconds before punting. The Golden

Eagles had five laterals before the final play ended inside the

Blazers 40 with 292-pound lineman Joe Duhon bumped out of bounds

after rumbling the final 27 yards.

”They played better than we did,” Fedora said. ”We got

outcoached. I got outcoached and they did a better job than we did.

They had their players ready to play and I didn’t have my guys

ready to play, obviously.

Jonathan Perry completed 17 of 26 passes for 236 yards and a

touchdown and ran for another score for the Blazers. Greg Franklin

gained 85 yards on 17 carries.

Davis was 20-of-29 passing for 264 yards and touchdowns of 34

and 38 yards and threw one interception. Jamal Woodyard ran 10

times for 95 yards and Southern Miss outgained UAB 523-425.

UAB has won three straight against Southern Miss after losing

the first nine in the series. Eight of the 12 have been decided by

seven points or less.

The Blazers appeared to be set up for more points on that

go-ahead drive.

Perry hit a leaping Patrick Hearn for a 32-yard pass on third

down to push the ball down to the 10-yard line. UAB lost yardage on

each of the next three plays, though, including a pair of shotgun

snaps bobbled by Perry.

The teams traded short touchdown runs in the opening five

minutes of the fourth quarter, keeping the game tied.

Perry set up Franklin’s 3-yarder with a 31-yard pass to Nick

Adams and two straight quarterback draws covering 22 yards. Davis

tied it again with a 1-yard sneak on fourth down with 10:27

left.

The Blazers didn’t give the ball back until they’d recaptured

the lead with a drive consuming 7 minutes, 14 seconds.

Southern Miss squandered two scoring chances. First, Woodyard

fumbled on the UAB 8 in the second quarter. Then, Danny Hrapmann

missed a 37-yard field goal in the third that squandered a 15-play

drive.

The Blazers overcame two successful gambles by Fedora to claim a

24-21 halftime lead after Long booted a 29-yard field goal with 19

seconds left to punctuate a 14-play drive.

Southern Miss converted an onside kick and a fake field goal

into touchdowns, but both teams had a pair of turnovers.

Davis threw touchdown passes to Ryan Balentine and Kelvin Bolden

in the first 3:30, aided by the onside kick after the first

score.

Fedora surprised the Blazers again when holder Peter Boehme

scooped up the ball and hit tight end Ryan Hanks for a 10-yard

touchdown on the fake.

”I would hate to go back and say I wish we didn’t score 14

points so that we are not relaxed,” Fedora said. ”We basically

didn’t have what it took tonight to win the football game.”