Southern Miss Rebounds With 58-14 Thrashing Of Houston

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) _ Southern Mississippi quarterback Jeff Kelly didn't want to call his recent struggles a slump. Whatever, it was, he can now call it over. Kelly threw for four touchdowns to tie a career high and ran for another one as Southern Miss snapped out of its offensive funk with a 58-14 victory over Houston on Saturday. ``It's not so much a relief. We expected to play well,'' he said. The Golden Eagles (4-2, 2-2 Conference USA) scored on their first four possessions to take a 24-0 lead in the second quarter on their way to halting a two-game losing streak. The Cougars (0-7, 0-5) tied a school-record with their 11th straight loss. ``We are just not playing very well because their offense has been struggling immensely this year,'' Houston coach Dana Dimel said. Kelly, who had committed six turnovers in his last two games, bounced back with his best game of the season. He was 20-for-32 for 276 yards. He also ran for 53 yards and his only interception came in the fourth quarter with the Eagles up 31-0. The senior quarterback and the offense took most of the blame for the two-game slide by committing eight turnovers and giving little help to a defense ranked No. 2 in the country. The Eagles gained 480 total yards in losses to Memphis and Louisville. But against one of the worst defenses in the country, the Golden Eagles looked like the Florida Gators, rolling up 469 yards. ``We protected the ball, our receivers ran good routes, our offensive line protected well. It made it a little easier to throw the ball,'' Kelly said. Kelly capped a nine-play, 65-yard opening drive by hitting Marvin Young with a 7-yard touchdown pass. It was the freshman wide receiver's first career reception. Rod Davis' interception on the ensuing possession gave the ball back to Southern Miss at the Houston 31. "I know the offense has been feeling down that the defense has been playing pretty well and they haven't been producing like they should,'' Davis said. ``I'm glad. I'm so proud of those guys.'' Four plays later, Kelly scored from 7 yards out on a bootleg around left end to make 14-0. Kelly hit Leroy Handy for a 7-yard score to make it 24-0 with 10:47 left in the second quarter.

Even the Golden Eagles' sickly running game, ranked last in the nation coming into the game, got healthy against the porous Cougars. Southern Miss ran for 158 yards, led by Dawayne Woods' season-high 72 on 13 carries, more than double its season average of 61. Woods had 145 total yards, including a 53-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter, that made the score 38-6 and was Kelly's last pass of the day. ``We've done that against Memphis and now Southern Miss, two really poor offenses, and we've let them move the football on us at will,'' said Dimel, the second-year coach who is 3-15. It was Southern Miss' highest-scoring game since beating Samford 59-16 in 1994. ``We've got to keep it going and build on this,'' Kelly said. The Cougars committed six turnovers and lost to Southern Miss for the fourth straight time. Houston's Nick Eddy was 26-for-56 for 254 yards with four interceptions. Twice he was intercepted in the end zone after a first-and-goal. Joffrey Reynolds, who rushed for over 100 yards in each of his three previous games, was held to 75 on 18 carries by the Golden Eagles. The Cougars last lost 11 straight during the 1994 and '95 seasons.