Today’s guest contribution for the STAT BOX STORIES BOWL BLITZ INVITATIONAL comes from Southern Miss alum Quantrell Toval as he plays the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl between the Nevada Wolfpack and the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. This is Quantrell’s first contibution to STAT BOX STORIES; if you would like to join in on this project as we try to get entries for every Bowl Game from this college football season, visit the forum game list at The Gaming Tailgate to see which games are still available to sign up for.
Capping off the first week of Bowl Season is the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl between the Nevada Wolfpack and the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles. The Nevada Wolfpack come into the game with a 7-5 record, finishing second in the WAC, a significant drop off the previous season’s 13-1 record highlighted by an upset over Boise State. The 11-2 Southern Miss Golden Eagles come into the game fresh off of one of the biggest upsets of the college season, a 49-28 throttling of then #6 Houston in the C-USA Championship game. Usually the C-USA champ gets to play in Memphis at the Liberty Bowl but this year, the sunny skies of America’s 50th state await these champs on their Christmas Eve matchup with the Wolfpack.
I just happen to be a proud alum of Southern Miss so although Nevada has the slight edge ratings-wise in NCAA 12, my heart bleeds black and gold so of course I took my beloved Golden Eagles in this matchup.
Nevada won the coin toss and elected to kick. USM WR #17 returned it 20 yards to the 31 and the Hawai’i Bowl was underway. 4 plays and 70 yards later, Southern Miss was up 7-0 as USM senior QB #12 hit WR #85 for a 51-yd TD down the left sideline.
The TD didn’t shake Nevada though as they marched down the field in 4 plays themselves to tie the score. Nevada QB #16 hit WR #82 down the right sideline as he easily beat USM CB #7 for a 47-yd TD. Two drives. Two TDs. 7-7 and the game isn’t even 3 minutes old yet. We had the makings of a shootout.
On Southern Miss’s next possession, they continued to beat the offensive drum as they marched down the field in 8 plays to score another TD. QB #12 hit WR #17 on a play action pass from the 5-yd line to give the Golden Eagles a 14-7 lead in the first quarter. The drive was highlighted by a 45-yd reception by #17 to put the Golden Eagles in the red zone who then go on to score 4 plays later. 14-7 Golden Eagles, a score that sticks through the end of the 1st quarter.
On the first play of the 2nd quarter, Nevada QB #16 gets hit attempting a pass and gets back spasms. He’s only out until the Wolfpack’s next series but it lead to the drive being stalled after having 1st and goal from the 3. The Wolfpack lose 4 total yards on 2 run plays and throw an incompletion so they had to settle for a 24-yd FG. The drive was a 13 play, 70 yard drive and at its conclusion, the score was 14-10, Golden Eagles.
On the ensuing drive, Nevada CB #2 steps in front of a pass and intercepts it, returning it to the Golden Eagle 43-yd line. The Wolfpack capitalize on the turnover and the good field position as WR #82 hauls in his second TD catch, this time a 40-yd catch down the right sideline 2 plays later. 17-14 Wolfpack with 4.43 left in the 2nd quarter.
The Golden Eagles got to midfield on the next drive but failed to convert a 4th and inches so they turned it over on downs. The momentum was swinging in the Wolfpack’s favor but the Wolfpack couldn’t do anything with the good field, punting into the endzone after a 3-and-out.
On 3rd and 3, Nevada gets their 2nd interception as ROLB #42 jumps in front of a pass and returns it to the Golden Eagle 11-yd line. 3 plays later, Nevada RB #29 runs it in from the 2-yd line, giving Nevada a 24-14 lead. Southern Miss went 3-and-out and punted back to Nevada who moved the ball into field goal range but missed a 46-yd field goal as time expired leaving the score at 24-14 going into halftime.
The Wolfpack received the 2nd half kickoff and after getting a 14-yd completion on the first play from scrimmage, 2 sacks and an incompletion sank the drive, forcing the Wolfpack to punt. The Golden Eagles next drive began on the Nevada 48-yd line. The Golden Eagles began using the ground game to move the chains. Runs of 16 and 11 start the drive off as USM marched down the field. USM eventually got to 1st and goal but took an 11-yd sack on 2nd and goal making a field goal the likely outcome on the drive. Then, on 3rd and goal, a defensive pass interference call on the 4-yd line saves the Eagles, giving them 1st and goal, again, from the 4. QB #12 hits RB #29 on a screen and the Golden Eagles are back in the game at 24-21 Nevada.
After a 3 and out by Nevada, USM took over on their own 47-yd line. QB #12 scrambles for a 30-yd gain on 1st down after escaping a sack in the backfield. On the next play, he hit WR #17 on a 23-yd strike, giving the Golden Eagles a 28-24 lead. That score remained through the end of the 3rd quarter.
The 4th quarter began with Nevada continuing their drive from the 3rd quarter. The drive stalled at the USM 25-yd line as Nevada failed to convert on 4th down.
Southern Miss then began to milk the clock as they ran the ball and threw short passes up the field to get into Nevada territory. At the Nevada 32-yd line, Nevada ROLB #42 made his 2nd interception of the game, leaping again like a frog on steroids to snag the ball out of the air. Nevada drove to the Southern Miss 29-yd line where 4 straight incompletions end the drive and almost all hope for a win.
Southern Miss then ran the ball and the clock, burning all of Nevada’s timeouts as Southern Miss was able to get 1 first down before punting with 9 seconds remaining in the game. The ball rolled out of bounds at the Nevada 2-yd line with 2 seconds left meaning the Wolfpack would had to go the length of the field on the final play in order to win. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be as QB #16 was sacked on the 1-yd line by USM MLB #42 to end the game and give the Southern Miss Golden Eagles a hard-fought victory in the Hawai’i Bowl.
With another Bowl Game in the books, it’s time to get ready to celebrate the Christmas holiday before coming back for two more Bowl Games on Monday, December 26th. Make sure you don’t miss those entries!
Guest Author Bio:
Quantrell Toval is a former writer for www.themarriedgamers.net and currently the co-host of The FAQ Show podcast with former X-Cast host, Frank Romano. You can follow him on Twitter @souljahbill14, or befriend him on Xbox Live (Souljahbill14) or PSN (souljahbill). You’ll have to ask him for his Wii code yourself which he’ll gladly share if you want to play some Animal Crossing City Folk.