The Golden Eagles lost three of their final four regular-season games, all against conference opponents. Prior to this season, Southern Miss had lost just two league games in four seasons. Hard rains soaked the field at M.M. Roberts Stadium on Thursday night and Friday morning. The game began with rain pouring down and by the time it stopped in the second quarter, the damage had been done to the field.
The teams were left to slog through the muck and neither offense did a particularly good job. By the time it was over nearly every player who took the field was covered in mud. East Carolina managed just 210 yards. Southern Miss gained 371 yards, but sacks and turnovers killed most of its drives.
Leonard Henry was the Pirates main source of offense, running for 92 yards on 24 carries. Garrard's 6-yard touchdown flip to Corey Floyd capped the only sustained drive for either team in the first half and gave East Carolina a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. Garrad was just 5-of-20 for 55 yards.
Nine turnovers did in Southern Miss in its two previous conference losses and three more proved to be the difference against East Carolina. On the opening drive of the second half, Greg LeFever picked off Kelly's throw as he attempting a screen pass from the Pirates' 44. LeFever returned to the 36 and was stripped of the ball by Kenny Johnson. But Hardy scooped up the fumble and went in for a touchdown that gave East Carolina a 14-0 lead.
Kelly led the Golden Eagles on a 74-yard drive on the ensuing possession, but it stalled at the East Carolina 5 and Southern Miss had to settle for Brant Hanna's 20-yard field goal. Kelly scored the Golden Eagles' touchdown on a 12-yard scramble with 3:35 left in the game. He was 16-for-38 for 239 yards with an interception. He also lost a fumble and was frequently stuck in the mud by the Pirates' pass rush.