Golden Eagles get bowl victory
Published: Monday, January 8, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 8, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.
MOBILE, Ala. — Damion Fletcher ran for two touchdowns and Southern Miss scored 21 points in the second quarter en route to a 28-7 victory over Ohio on Sunday night in the GMAC Bowl, spoiling the Bobcats' return to the postseason.
The Golden Eagles (9-5) thoroughly dominated after a scoreless first quarter for their third consecutive postseason win.
Frank Solich's Bobcats (9-5) were making their first bowl appearance since 1968, but that euphoria wore off quickly as the game turned into a mismatch
They are 0-3 in bowl games and failed to match their school record of 10 wins. It was a rough ending to a feel-good story that saw Solich, a former Nebraska coach, revive a struggling program that won only four games in his debut season.
The Golden Eagles used a series of big plays in the final 8:33 of the first half to break open a scoreless game, then had a marathon march to open the third quarter.
Sophomore Sidney Rice, the Gamecocks' career leader in touchdown receptions, is giving up his final two seasons to enter the NFL draft.
Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier confirmed through a spokesman that Rice would go pro.
Spurrier was "disappointed and wished (Rice) would've stayed around another year," spokesman Steve Fink said.
In two seasons, Rice caught 23 TDs to set the school's career mark. With 1,090 yards receiving this year, Rice became the first South Carolina wideout to break the 1,000-yard mark twice in his career. The only other 1,000-yard season in Gamecock history was by former Green Bay Packers star Sterling Sharpe.
Rice had 11 100-yard games, also a school career record.
He caught 72 passes this year and leaves sixth all-time on the school list with 142 receptions.
Underclassmen had until Jan. 15 to declare for the draft. Rice has until Jan. 20 to withdraw his name from consideration and return to school.
Defensive end Jamaal Anderson and cornerback Chris Houston will skip their final season of college eligibility to enter the NFL draft, coach Houston Nutt said.
Anderson was a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection and an honorable mention All-American as a junior this season. The Little Rock native led the SEC in sacks with 13.5 and was second in the league with 19.5 tackles for loss.
Anderson led the team with 26 quarterback hurries and finished a half-sack short of tying the Razorbacks' single-season record of 14 held by Henry Ford and Steven Conley.
Houston finished the season with 45 tackles, a team-high three interceptions, 13 pass break-ups and two fumbles forced. He held Southern California receiver Dwayne Jarrett to a season-low performance and also held Tennessee's Robert Meachem and Vanderbilt's Earl Bennett to yardage totals well under their averages.
The NFL draft is April 28-29.
Nutt lamented the loss of both players, but said he understood the draw of the NFL. He said Anderson had been "an excellent student-athlete and an excellent role model."
Nutt said he and his coaching staff talked to Anderson "long and hard" about his options.
"I understand when you have the capability to be a first-round draft pick that is difficult to turn down," the Razorbacks' coach said.
Nutt said playing in the NFL had also been a longtime dream for Houston.
"Anytime you recruit talented players, you are aware that this day might come," Nutt said. "We wish Chris the best and appreciate all of his contributions to the Razorbacks."
Anderson, in a prepared statement, thanked Nutt and his brother Danny Nutt for their recruiting efforts, "coming into my home and offering me an opportunity to become part of the Razorback family. They made my parents feel comfortable and confident that they would do what was best for me and help me develop both as a player and as a person."
He also thanked Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring and defensive line coach Tracy Rocker "for all they did to help me develop and grow as a football player. All the guys who played with me on the defense know that Herring and Rocker demanded nothing less than our best and full effort in practices and games. They are great teachers and I feel fortunate to have had them as my coaches."
After several days of negotiations, officials decided late Saturday to withdraw their offer to Louisiana State assistant coach Jimbo Fisher to become the Seminoles' offensive coordinator.
"Florida State will move forward to pursue other options among a number of outstanding coaches who want to share in FSU's traditions and values," coach Bobby Bowden said in a statement released by the university. "Coach Fisher will be a benefit to whatever organization he ends up with and we will secure the best coach available to lead our offense."
The new offensive coordinator will replace Jeff Bowden, who resigned under pressure in November. He is the youngest son of Bobby Bowden.
While Bowden is still searching for a new offensive coordinator he did name two new assistants earlier this week in his overhaul of the offensive staff.
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