Golden Eagles replace Houston Cougars as C-USA football champions

From the Gridiron

Michael P. Davis

The Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles became the nation's first team to accept a bowl bid after pummeling the Houston Cougars 33-0. After the game, the Eagles accepted the bid from the AXA/Equitable Liberty Bowl. USM head coach Jeff Bower said, "I think the great thing is we know we are going to a bowl, and we know when it is. I feel good knowing what lies ahead, but we still have a game this week (Memphis)."

Offensive Player of the Week

Dan Gonzalez proved that the inexperienced Cougar secondary is not the only vulnerable defense in Conference USA. "Gonzo" threw for 338 yards and broke his own records for pass attempts (62) and completions (37) in the East Carolina 14-7 win over Cincinnati. Although the Pirates only scored 14 points in the win, Gonzalez went over the 300-yard mark in passing for the second straight week. This was also his second straight week to win Player of the Week honors.

Defensive Player of the Week

They must be Pirates because they are stealing all the awards. Linebacker Jeff Kerr tackled his first Player of the Week award by mounting a C-USA season high 23 tackles for East Carolina. Kerr leads ECU with 155 tackles for the season.

Game of the Week

Although it may seem meaningless, the USM-Memphis matchup has some interesting sub-plots. Memphis must win this game to improve upon last season's 4-7 record under coach Rip Sherer. The Tigers have yet to lose a home game in C-USA, posting a 4-0 record at the Liberty Bowl. Memphis also seeks revenge for the 16-0 shutout from last year's match.

Southern Miss is undefeated in conference play and travels to Memphis for the first of two consecutive games at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

King of the hill

Despite losing 41-24 to Mississippi, Tulane quarterback Shaun King set a single season school record for touchdown passes with his 22nd against Ole Miss. King will probably set other records this week against UH, including total offense and passing yards. For the season, King has amassed 2408 passing yards and 2846 total.

On the importance of winning a "meaningless game"(Tulane at UH), Houston coach Kim Helton said, "Every game is so important to your health, your mental state, to how you feel about yourself and your teammates. Wins, you forget about those four days later. Nobody forgets the losses."

Around the State...

Texas A&M destroyed Oklahoma 51-6, assuring themselves a spot in the Big 12 Conference Championship, Dec. 6, in San Antonio. Rice fell back to reality, losing 31-14 last week at Utah. Texas ... nobody cares what UT did. Southern Methodist University clinched a winning season when Tulsa fumbled the snap on the game-tying extra-point.

Pigskin Notables...

The Louisville Cardinals fired coach Ron Cooper after a disappointing 1-10 record in 1997. He finishes his five seasons as head coach for UL with a 22-33 record.

It is the weekend for big games in the NCAA this week. Some of the fiercest battles will take place this weekend, including Michigan against Ohio State with National Championship implications on the line. The bitter rivalry between Florida and Florida State rears its ugly head again. Last year Florida State beat Florida in the regular season match-up, only to have their hopes for an undefeated season torn apart in a Florida blow-out at the Sugar Bowl. The Auburn-Alabama rivalry occurs at Auburn Saturday afternoon.

Message from Michael...

Look for next week's edition of C-USA's year ending awards.

I will choose winners from such prestigious categories as the coolest name award, and the most pointless stat of the year award.

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