(Sunday, December 20th)
Final Score: Middle Tennessee 42, Southern Miss 32
New Orleans, LA (Sports Network) - Dwight Dasher threw a pair of touchdown passes and rushed for two more scores, as the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders took down the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles, 42-32, in the New Orleans Bowl.
Dasher completed 15-of-25 passes for 162 yards and carried the ball 26 times for 201 yards for the Blue Raiders (10-3), who were making only their second bowl appearance at the FBS level. Dasher was injured multiple times in the contest but he brushed off each one. Brent Burnette connected on 2-of-3 passes for 45 yards and a score for Middle Tennessee, which lost to Central Michigan in the 2006 Motor City Bowl.
Chris McClover hauled in four passes for 55 yards and a touchdown. Garrett Andrews caught four balls for 51 yards and a score. Shane Blissard also caught a TD pass while Benjamin Cunningham ran for a score for the Blue Raiders, who finished the year with seven consecutive wins.
"I've never been part of a team that plays harder than we do," Middle coach Rick Stockstill said. "Other teams can't match our intensity, enthusiasm and toughness and that was evident today. We fell behind 14-0 but we never quit. I thought this game was a perfect example of a team playing hard with enthusiasm and toughness. We played harder and harder as we went on. We played smart."
Martevious Young connected on 18-of-34 passes for 271 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions for the Golden Eagles (7-6), who were making their second straight and fourth overall appearance in the New Orleans Bowl, where they hold a 3-1 record.
Damion Fletcher rushed for 78 yards on 17 carries to surpass 1,000 rushing yards for the season. He joined an elite group as he ran for at least 1,000 yards in each season of his four-year career.
Tory Harrison had a rushing touchdown and Gerald Baptiste caught four passes for 117 yards. DeAndre Brown hauled in four passes for 65 yards and two scores while Freddie Parham caught a late TD pass for Southern Mississippi, which was appearing in a bowl game for an eighth straight time.
Down 28-20, Southern Mississippi started at its own 46 following a punt. On 4th-and-1 from the MTU 45, Young rushed for four yards and a fresh set of downs. Young connected with Baptiste on a 31-yard pass on the next play to get to the 10-yard line. Three plays later, Brown caught a seven-yard TD pass in the middle of the end zone to cut the deficit to two with 6:52 remaining. The two-point conversion failed.
Dasher then led the Blue Raiders on a game-clinching drive. Desmond Gee caught an 18-yard pass on a 4th-and-1, and Cunningham rumbled into the end zone from one yard out to give MTU a 35-26 lead with 3:14 to go.
Danny Carmichael picked off Young on the first play of the Golden Eagles' ensuing possession. Dasher sealed the victory with a one-yard TD run with 1:13 to play, making it 42-26.
"Obviously, it was difficult stopping him," Southern coach Larry Fedora said. "We knew going in that he was a heck of a player, and he showed that tonight. We sent him out a great player. He single handedly did it against us."
Parham's 33-yard touchdown catch with 27 seconds left made it a 10-point game. The two-point conversion failed.
The Golden Eagles scored a touchdown on each of their first two possessions to jump out to an early lead. Harrison capped a nine-play, 61-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run. The score was 6-0 after the two-point conversion failed with 10:42 left.
Middle Tennessee went three-and-out on offense, giving Southern Mississippi the ball at the MTU 49 after the punt. Brown hauled in a 24-yard TD pass on the seventh play of the march. A successful two-point conversion made it 14-0 with 6:35 remaining.
The Blue Raiders got on the board with a 12-play, 70-yard drive that bridged the first and second periods. Andrews hauled in an 11-yard TD pass to top off the march, making it a seven-point tilt with 13:25 to go until half.
Middle Tennessee had a chance to get three points on its next possession but Alan Gendreau's 31-yard field goal was blocked. The Blue Raiders' defense, though, picked off Young on the first play to put the ball back in the hands of the offense.
Blissard caught a nine-yard touchdown pass with 4:41 left to deadlock the contest at 14. But the Golden Eagles took a three-point lead into the locker room after Daniel Hrapmann drilled a 20-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.
Dasher's 35-yard touchdown run with 10:12 remaining in the third gave Middle Tennessee a 21-17 edge. Hrapmann made a 38-yard field goal on the ensuing USM drive to cut the gap to 21-20 with 7:36 to go.
The Blue Raiders scored a TD at the end of the third to build an eight-point margin. Faced with a 3rd-and-8 from the Middle Tennessee 25, Dasher rushed for 31 yards but came up favoring his left knee. Burnette took over at QB and connected with McClover on a 23-yard touchdown pass just three plays later, making it a 28-20 game.
This was the first-ever meeting between the Golden Eagles and the Blue Raiders on the gridiron...Middle Tennessee had 243 yards on the ground, compared to 123 for Southern Miss...Dasher was named the MVP of the game. He became one of just eight quarterbacks in FBS history to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 2,000 in the same season. His 201 yards rushing established a New Orleans Bowl record and he became the only quarterback in Blue Raider history to surpass 1,000 yards rushing in a season...Dasher's 201 rushing yards is a national bowl record as no quarterback has ever rushed for more than 200 yards in a bowl game. In the 2006 Rose Bowl, Texas' Vince Young rushed for 200 yards...Middle Tennessee's 10 wins on the year was its most in a season since the 1990 squad won 11 games.
12/21 01:55:50 ET