A look at the numbers that mattered in Southern Miss' 24-17 win over Nevada in a less-than-explosive Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.
649: Total yards gained by both teams. And you call yourself the Hawaii Bowl ... each team was supposed to gain this much! We don't watch the Hawai'i Bowl for the electric atmosphere.
149: Yards gained on Nevada's back-to-back, second-quarter touchdown drives. Lampford Mark ripped off seven rushes for 86 yards in two touchdowns on those drives, and quarterback Cody Fajardo completed five of six passes for 46 yards. After some early stumbles, the Wolf Pack Pistol began to fire. Unfortunately, Mark only managed 97 yards on 22 carries (4.4 per carry) the rest of the way, and Fajardo completed just three of 13 passes for 14 yards. It was a supernova of offensive competence. For a moment, it looked like the Wolf Pack were ready to blow off Southern Miss' doors. They led, 14-7, and forced a fumble. They faced a fourth-and-1 near midfield and went for the jugular ... and were stuffed. From then on, it was back to defensive gridlock.
4.5: Tackles for loss made by Southern Miss end Cordarro Law. For the second straight Southern Miss game, Law was the best player on the field. Against Houston in the Conference USA Championship, he had 2.5 tackles for loss (one sack) and a quarterback hurry, but it felt like he had doubled that. Against Nevada, he basically did: 6.5 tackles, 4.5 for loss, with two sacks and another hurry. In the third quarter, with the Wolf Pack attempting to capitalize on a Southern Miss fumble in their own red zone, Nevada coach Chris Ault brought veteran quarterback Tyler Lantrip into the game in place of Cody Fajardo, hoping it would stabilize the offense a bit. Law tackled Lantrip for a loss of two on one play, then sacked him the next, and Nevada had to settle for a field goal. Law had more tackles for loss than the Nevada team as a whole (four).
4: Special teams miscues for Southern Miss. I promised big plays (and a special teams advantage for Southern Miss), right? Well, this isn't quite what I had in mind. The Golden Eagles missed two field goals (granted, they were from 48 and 50 yards), fumbled a kickoff return and muffed a punt. Granted, they also blocked a punt for a touchdown, made another 48-yard field goal, and downed five punts inside the Nevada 20 (the Wolf Pack began just one drive beyond their 39 and started 10 drives inside their 25), but the miscues kept Nevada in the game.
3.4: Average gain for every pass attempt by either quarterback (including sacks). Nevada quarterbacks Fajardo and Lantrip combined to complete 13 of 28 passes for 117 yards, a pick and three sacks for 15 yards. Granted, they had a bit of an excuse: go-to receiver Rishard Matthews unexpectedly missed the game with a knee injury; he was hurt at the end of the regular season but expected to play. In his absence, the Wolf Pack had to gear most of the passing game toward Aaron Bradley, with minimal success (13 targets, seven catches, 64 yards).
Southern Miss, meanwhile, had its full artillery of weapons and just couldn't do anything with it. Quarterback Austin Davis was simply off all night (or, in Hawaii, all day). He completed 18 of 41 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns and was sacked twice for 20 yards, and on many of those incompletions he simply missed a reasonably open receiver. Still, Nevada's cornerbacks did a great job on Davis' top two targets, Kelvin Bolden and Ryan Balentine (combined: 10 targets, three catches, 24 yards), forcing Davis to start a love-hate relationship with No. 3 man Dominique Sullivan. Sullivan suffered a couple of early drops and only caught five of 14 passes thrown his way (for 75 yards), but he did catch perhaps the biggest pass of the night, a 43-yard catch-and-run that took advantage of a late break on the ball by aggressive cornerback Isaiah Frey. The play set up the only touchdown of the second half, a four-yard, third-down pass from Davis to Bolden that gave Southern Miss the lead and, eventually, the win.