SOUTHERN Miss 17, Oklahoma St. 9

Saturday, September 1st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) _ Southern Mississippi held off a last-minute rally from Oklahoma State to spoil Les Miles' coaching debut.

Quarterback Jeff Kelly completed 22 of 36 passes for 277 yards to propel Southern Mississippi to a 17-9 victory over the Cowboys.

The Golden Eagles (1-0) held the Cowboys (0-1) out of the end zone for the second straight year.

Oklahoma State made things interesting, driving to the Southern Miss 26-yard-line with 1:04 left, but a fourth-down pass from OSU sophomore quarterback Aso Pogi fell short. Pogi was throwing to sophomore wide receiver Rashaun Woods, who led his team with 10 catches for 139 yards.

Pogi completed 26-of-38 passes for 294 yards. The Cowboys fumbled the ball away on four occasions.

Southern Miss, a member of Conference USA, has won nine of 10 non-conference games since the conference's inception in 1996.

The Golden Eagles won despite just 53 rushing yards and a defense that gave up 339 yards. Oklahoma State had an even worse ground attack, netting just 45 yards. All of the Eagles' points came in the first half.

``We did well in the first half, and in the second half, offensively, we were really inconsistent,'' said Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower, a former OSU assistant. ``We had a few chances in the third quarter to put the game away, but we didn't convert.''

Miles said his Cowboys could have made things a little more exciting.

``We needed to play with poise, not turn the ball over ... and not make serious mistakes at crucial times,'' he said. ``Had we done that, this game would have been a lot more fun for all people involved.''

The Cowboys moved the ball well against the Southern Miss defense, but couldn't get in to the end zone, largely because of turnovers. Southern Miss had no turnovers in the contest.

Kicker Luke Phillips accounted for all of the Cowboys' points. He kicked field goals of 41, 25 and 32 yards.

The Cowboys took the lead on Phillips' field goal before the end of the first quarter. On a subsequent drive, defensive end Paul Terrell blindsided Pogi, causing a fumble, which USM recovered. The turnover led to the only score of the first quarter for the Eagles. Kelly found freshman receiver Chris Johnson on a crossing pattern for a 20-yard touchdown.

Oklahoma State's Terrance Davis-Bryant fumbled the ensuing kickoff. Southern Miss quickly capitalized, as Kelly found wide receiver Kenneth Johnson on a 22-yard strike to the 1-yard-line. Running back Dawayne Woods scored the touchdown to cap the drive.

Johnson was Kelly's primary target, making nine catches for 92 yards. LeRoy Handy caught six of Kelly's passes for 82 yards.

USM kicker Brant Hanna added a 23-yard field goal in the second quarter, giving the Eagles a 17-6 halftime lead. Phillips' 32-yard third-quarter field goal for Oklahoma State completed the scoring.