USM breezes past Memphis 44-7 for East title - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

USM breezes past Memphis 44-7 for East title

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Austin Davis passed for 277 yards and two scores, and ran for another as Southern Mississippi breezed past Memphis 44-7 on Saturday.

Davis completed 14 of 26 passes to give the Golden Eagles (10-2) their first Conference USA Eastern Division title since 2006 and their first 10-win season since 1988.

Southern Mississippi will play at No. 8-ranked Houston in the conference championship game next Saturday.

A week after falling from all three major polls with a 34-31 loss to UAB, Southern Miss came out firing, outgaining Memphis 540 yards to 181 and racking up 25 first downs.

"It's a completely different feeling (from last week)," Davis said. "We went from as ugly as it gets to as good as it gets."

The Tigers (2-10) have now won five games in the past three seasons combined.

Southern Miss running back Desmond Johnson rushed for 103 yards on 11 carries. Tracy Lampley added 44 yards on seven carries and caught five passes for 116 yards, including a 49-yard touchdown from Davis on a flea-flicker.

Southern Miss kicker Danny Hrapmann was 3-of-3 on field goal attempts and 5-of-5 on extra points.

The Golden Eagles defense forced three turnovers and returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns.

The first came with just over a minute left in the first half on a 35-yard return by Deron Wilson. The second was a 100-yard return by Kendrick Presley with 1:17 left in the third quarter.

That helped pick up the slack for the offense, which put up big numbers everywhere but the red zone.

In six trips inside the Memphis 20-yard line, the Golden Eagles turned the ball over twice and settled for a pair of field goals.

Memphis reached the red zone once and turned it over on Presley's interception return. "That was a good win tonight," Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora said. "I like the way our defense played the entire game.

They got after it. Offensively, we didn't finish enough drives in the red zone. We still haven't reached our potential as a football team. That's the exciting thing."

Memphis managed just 21 rushing yards on 23 attempts. The Tigers narrowly avoided a shutout with a late defensive score when Mitch Huelsing recovered a Southern Miss fumble in the end zone for a touchdown with 6:54 remaining.

Tigers quarterback Andy Summerlin completed 21 of his 45 attempts for 174 yards in his second start of the season.

"(Southern Miss) is known for getting off to a fast start," Memphis coach Larry Porter said. "I thought initially we withstood the surge, and then defensively we got a little undisciplined.

Bottom line is our offensive line just got dominated today."

 (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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