Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

TCU Gets Tough Welcome to League

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

TCU Gets Tough Welcome to League

Article excerpt

MOBILE, Ala. -- Southern Mississippi delivered a message to a Conference USA newcomer: Get ready for a wild ride.

The Golden Eagles shed their late-season offensive struggles, contained Texas Christian tailback LaDanian Tomlinson and got the best of the nation's top defense Wednesday night.

The final blow was Jeff Kelly's 29-yard touchdown pass to freshman Kenny Johnson with eight seconds left, giving Southern Miss a 28-21 win over the 13th-ranked Horned Frogs in the Mobile Alabama Bowl.

It was a wild beginning to the bowl season and a triumphant finish for a senior class that won three of four bowl games.

"It's like I told our seniors," said Golden Eagles coach Jeff Bower, whose team went 8-4 despite losing three of its last four regular-season games. "You always want to leave the program better than the previous senior class, and the foundation of this program is stronger than it has ever been."

The Horned Frogs (10-2) missed a chance to win a bowl game in three consecutive years for the first time. Next season, they'll join Conference USA, where Southern Miss has won three titles in five years.

They'll make the move without Tomlinson and four starting offensive linemen, and with a new coaching staff, led by former defensive coordinator Gary Patterson. Quarterback Casey Printers will be back, too, and looking forward to the challenge.

"You want better competition," the sophomore said. "That's what we live for."

The Southern Miss defense, rated No. 2 overall coming in, sent Tomlinson, a Heisman Trophy finalist after rushing for more than 2,000 yards, into the NFL with what for him was a poor game. Tomlinson scored a pair of third-quarter TDs, but was held to 118 yards on 28 carries. He was still voted the game's Most Valuable Player by the media.

"He got his yards, but we held him to a minimum," said Southern Miss safety Leo Barnes, who returned an interception 50 yards for a TD in the first quarter. It was his fourth interception return for a score this season. …

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