C-USA Football Bowl Notebook

Go C-USA! C-USA Champion Southern Miss
C-USA Champion Southern Miss

Dec. 14, 2011

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Five Conference USA teams will be making bowl appearances this season, including two teams that are nationally-ranked. C-USA Champion and No. 21 Southern Miss will face Nevada in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, while West Division Champion and No. 17 Houston will face Penn State in the TicketCity Bowl. Marshall, SMU and Tulsa will also play in the postseason.


Tuesday, December 20 St. Petersburg, Fla. 8 p.m. (EST) Tropicana Field (33,000) All-Time Series: First Meeting Television: ESPN Announcers: Mike Patrick (PxP), Craig James (AN), Jeanine Edwards (SL)

Marshall (6-6, 5-3 in C-USA) Website: www.herdzone.com Head Coach: Doc Holliday (West Virginia, '79) Career Record: 11-13 (2nd year) Record at MU: 11-13 (2nd year) Offense: Multiple Defense: 3-4 Leading Passer: Rakeem Cato (155-of-265, 1,833 yds., 13 TD) Leading Rusher: Tron Martinez (144 att., 591 yds., 3 TD) Leading Receiver: Aaron Dobson (42 rec., 587 yds., 10 TD) Last Game: Marshall 23, at Memphis 22 (Nov. 17) Last Bowl Appearance: 2009 Little Caesars (Marshall 21, Ohio 17) All-Time Bowl Record: 6-2

NOTING THE THUNDERING HERD: The Thundering Herd will be making their first bowl appearance under Doc Holliday and their second in three years...Marshall's roster features 22 players from the state of Florida...Senior DE Vinny Curry has been named a first team All-American as well as the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year. He ranks second nationally 21.5 tackles for loss, tied for second with six forced fumbles and is tied for fifth with 11.0 sacks this season. He is also the NCAA's active leader in career tackles for loss with 48.0, is second in career sacks among active student-athletes with 26.5 and ranks seventh in career forced fumbles with nine.

FIU (8-4, 5-2 in Sun Belt) Website: www.fiusports.com Head Coach: Mario Cristobal (Miami, '93) Career Record: 24-35 (5th year) Record at FIU: 24-35 (5th year) Offense: Multiple Defense: Multiple Leading Passer: Wesley Carroll (181-of-303, 2,224 yds., 14 TD) Leading Rusher: Kedrick Rhodes (224 att., 1,121 yds., 8 TD) Leading Receiver: T.Y. Hilton (64 rec., 950 yds., 7 TD) Last Game: FIU 31, Middle Tennessee 18 (Dec. 3) Last Bowl Appearance: 2010 Little Caesars (FIU 34, Toledo 32) All-Time Bowl Record: 1-0

NOTING THE GOLDEN PANTHERS: FIU will be making its second straight bowl appearance after winning the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl last year over Toledo, 34-32...The Panthers have setr a school record with eight victories this season....FIU is 1-0 vs. Conference USA schools this season, having defeated UCF, 17-10, on Sept. 17....Senior WR T.Y. Hilton has earned All-America honors and earned first-team All-Sun Belt Conference honors as a receiver, kick returner and all-purpose player. This season, Hilton broke several FIU and Sun Belt Conference career records including receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, all-purpose yards and kickoff return yards.

GAME NOTES: This is the fourth year of the Beef `O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl and C-USA has been a part of each....Marshall becomes the fourth different team from the East Division of Conference USA to play in the bowl....The game is played at Tropicana Field, the home of the 2008 American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays, and is the only college football game played each year at the facility.


Saturday, December 24 Honolulu, Hawai'i 7 p.m. (CST) Aloha Stadium (50,000) All-Time Series: Southern Miss leads 2-0 Last Meeting: Southern Miss 55, Nevada 28 (Nov. 21, 1998) Television: ESPN Announcers: Mark Jones (PxP), Ed Cunningham (AN), Jessica Mendoza (SL)

Southern Miss (11-2, 6-2 in C-USA) Website: www.southernmiss.com Head Coach: Larry Fedora (Austin College '85) Career Record: 33-19 (4th year) Record at USM: 33-19 (4th year) Offense: Spread Defense: 4-3 Leading Passer: Austin Davis (268-of-434, 3,331 yds., 28 TD) Leading Rusher: Jamal Woodyard (107 att., 683 yds., 3 TD) Leading Receiver: Ryan Balentine (49 rec., 748 yds., 8 TD) Last Game: Southern Miss 49, Houston 28 (Dec. 3) Last Bowl Appearance: 2010 Beef `O' Brady's (Louisville 31, USM 28) All-Time Bowl Record: 9-12-0

NOTING THE GOLDEN EAGLES: Southern Miss will be making its 10th straight bowl appearance and its 14th in the last 15 seasons...The Golden Eagles have also posted their 18th consecutive winning season....Southern Miss enters the game having won a school-record 11 games...The game will be the final one for Larry Fedora as head coach of the Golden Eagles. After compiling a 33-19 record and four consecutive bowl appearances, Fedora has accepted the coaching job at North Carolina.

Nevada (7-5, 4-3 in WAC) Website: www.nevadawolfpack.com Head Coach: Chris Ault (Nevada `73) Career Record: 226-102-1 (27th year) Record at Nevada: 226-102-1 (27th year) Offense: Pistol Defense: 4-3 Leading Passer: Cody Fajardo (142-of-199, 1,647 yds., 6 TD) Leading Rusher: Lampford Mark (130 att., 728 yds., 8 TD) Leading Receiver: Rishard Matthews (91 rec., 1,364 yds., 8 TD) Last Game: Nevada 56, Idaho 3 (Dec. 3) Last Bowl Appearance: 2010 Kraft Fight Hunger (Nevada 20, BC 13) All-Time Bowl Record: 4-7

NOTING THE WOLFPACK: Nevada will be making its seventh straight bowl appearance...The Wolfpack are 1-1 vs. C-USA teams in bowl games, defeating UCF in the 2005 Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl and losing to SMU in the 2009 Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl....Running out of the pistol offense, the Wolf Pack average 251.8 yards on the ground per game - that ranks eighth nationally....Nevada ranks fifth in the FBS in total offense, averaging 522.8 yards per game.

GAME NOTES: The Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl has gained a reputation for offensive shootouts, with the winning team topping the 40-point mark in each of the last eight years, while the losing team has scored 38 or more points four times....Conference USA teams are 5-2 in previous appearances in the Hawai'i Bowl, including wins in each of the last three games, two against foes (East Carolina over No. 22 Boise State in 2007 and Tulsa over No. 25 Hawai'i last year)....Southern Miss will be the eighth different C-USA school to play in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.


Friday, December 30 Dallas, Texas 11 a.m. (CST) Gerald J. Ford Stadium (32,000) All-Time Series: BYU leads 6-1 Last Meeting: Tulsa 55, BYU 47 (Sept. 15, 2007) Television: ESPN Announcers: Dave Neal (PxP), Andre Ware (Analyst), Cara Capuano (Sideline)

Tulsa (8-4, 7-1 in C-USA) Website: www.tulsahurricane.com Head Coach: Bill Blankenship (Tulsa, '79) Career Record: 8-4 (1st year) Record at Tulsa: 8-4 (1st year) Offense: Spread No Huddle Defense: 4-3 Leading Passer: G.J. Kinne (230-of-359, 2,876 yds., 25 TD) Leading Rusher: Ja'Terian Douglas (108 att., 884 yds., 4 TD) Leading Receiver: Willie Carter (61 rec., 868 yds., 7 TD) Last Game: Houston 48, Tulsa 16 (Nov. 25) Last Bowl Appearance: Tulsa 62, Hawai'i 35 (2010 Hawai'i Bowl) All-Time Bowl Record: 8-9

NOTING THE GOLDEN HURRICANE: Tulsa enters the game having won seven of their last eight games....All four of the Golden Hurricane's losses have come to then-top 10 teams...Tulsa will make its second appearance in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl as Tulsa dropped a 25-13 decision to Utah in the 2006 game at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth. In its next three bowl appearances, TU posted post-season wins at the GMAC (2008, 2009) and Hawai'i (2010) bowls, averaging 56.7 points...Tulsa will be in a bowl game for the sixth time in seven seasons...TU is 4-1 in bowl games since joining C-USA.

BYU (9-3) Website: www.byucougars.com Head Coach: Bronco Mendenhall (Oegon State '88) Career Record: 65-24 (9th year) Record at BYU: 65-24 (9th year) Offense: Pro-Set Defense: 3-4 Leading Passer: Riley Nelson (99-of-162, 1,467 yds., 16 TD) Leading Rusher: JJ Di Luigi (106 att., 546 yds., 3 TD) Leading Receiver: Cody Hoffman (53 rec., 821 yds., 7 TD) Last Game: BYU 41, Hawai'i 20 (Dec. 3) Last Bowl Appearance: 2010 New Mexico (BYU 52, UTEP 24) All-Time Bowl Record: 11-17-1

NOTING THE COUGARS: BYU will make its seventh consecutive bowl appearance and its second in a row vs. a C-USA school after defeating UTEP in the 2010 New Mexico Bowl. The Cougars are 1-2 all-time vs. C-USA schools in the postseason...BYU enters the game with victories in eight of its last nine games, a streak that started with a win over C-USA member UCF...Riley Nelson is 6-1 as BYU's starting quarterback, throwing for nearly 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns with just five interceptions over that time.

GAME NOTES: C-USA has been as part of the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in all but one year of the bowl's nine-year existence...This is the second straight year that the Fort Worth, Texas-based game has been played at SMU's Gerald J. Ford Stadium due to stadium renovations on Amon G. Carter Stadium...Three of the last four Armed Forces Bowls have been decided by less than a touchdown...Tulsa and BYU have averaged 73.3 points combined in the seven all-time meetings.

(17) HOUSTON vs. (22) PENN STATE

Monday, January 2 Dallas, Texas 11 a.m. (CST) Cotton Bowl (90,000) All-Time Series: Penn State leads, 2-0-0 Last Meeting: Penn State 31, Houston 14 (Sept. 17, 1977) Television: ESPN U Announcers: Clay Matvick (PxP), Danny Kanell (AN), Allison Williams (SL)

Houston (12-1, 8-1 in C-USA) Website: www.uhcougars.com Interim Head Coach: Tony Levine (Minnesota, '96) Career Record: 0-0 (1st year) Record at UH: 0-0 (1st year) Offense: Multiple Defense: 3-4 Leading Passer: Case Keenum (342-of-467, 4,726 yds., 43 TD) Leading Rusher: Charles Sims (95 att., 750 yds., 9 TD) Leading Receiver: Patrick Edwards (74 rec., 1,496 yds., 18 TD) Last Game: Southern Miss 49, Houston 28 (C-USA Champ.) Last Bowl Appearance: Air Force 47, Houston 20 (2009 Armed Forces) All-Time Bowl Record: 8-11-1

NOTING THE COUGARS: Houston will be making its 21st all-time bowl appearance, the second-most among C-USA schools....The Cougars will be playing a bowl game at Cotton Bowl Stadium for the first time since falling to Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie and Boston College, 45-24, on Jan. 1, 1984 in the Cotton Bowl....Houston will be coached by Tony Levine, who was named the interim coach on Dec. 10. Levine has served as UH's Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator and has coached the inside receivers and tight ends for the past four seasons....Houston enters the game with the nation's top-ranked offense. The Cougars average 50.8 points and 599.0 yards per game, including 443.8 passing yards.

Penn State (9-3, 6-2 in Big Ten) Website: www.gopsusports.com Interim Head Coach: Tom Bradley (Penn State '79) Career Record: 1-2 (1st year) Record at PSU: 1-2 (1st year) Offense: Multiple Defense: 4-3 Leading Passer: Matt McGloin (125-of-231, 1,571 yds., 8 TD) Leading Rusher: Silas Redd (230 att., 1,188 yds., 7 TD) Leading Receiver: Derek Moye (40 rec., 654 yds., 3 TD) Last Game: Wisconsin 45, Penn State 7 (Nov. 26) Last Bowl Appearance: 2010 Capital One (Florida 37, Penn State 24) All-Time Bowl Record: 27-14-2

NOTING THE NITTANY LIONS: Penn State will be playing in its 44th bowl game. The Nittany Lions have an all-time bowl record of 27-14-2 (.651), the second-highest winning percentage in the FBS....Penn State is playing in Dallas for the first time since beating Baylor at the 1975 Cotton Bowl....Penn State's passing defense ranks fifth in the FBS, allowing just 162.2 yards per game. The Nittany Lions rank 10th in total defense, surrendering 300.9 yards of total offense per contest.

GAME NOTES: The TicketCity Bowl is one of nine bowl games this season that will match a pair of top 25 teams against each other....This is the second year of the TicketCity Bowl, which pitted Texas Tech vs. Northwestern in last year's inaugural game....The game is played at the historic Cotton Bowl Stadium.


Saturday, January 7 Birmingham, Alabama 11 a.m. (CST) Legion Field (72,000) All-Time Series: Series tied 2-2-1 Last Meeting: SMU 7, Pittsburgh (Jan. 1, 1984) Television: ESPN Announcers: Mike Gleason (PxP), John Congemi (AN), Eamon McAnaney (SL)

SMU (7-5, 5-3 in C-USA) Website: www.smumustangs.com Head Coach: June Jones (N.Y. State Regents College) Career Record: 99-69 (13th year) Record at SMU: 23-28 (4th year) Offense: Run and Shoot Defense: 3-4 Leading Passer: J.J. McDermott (256-of-430, 3,182 yds., 16 TD) Leading Rusher: *Zach Line (208 att., 1,224 yds., 17 TD) Leading Receiver: Cole Beasley (79 rec., 954 yds., 2 TD) Last Game: SMU 27, Rice 24 (Nov. 26) Last Bowl Appearance: Army 16, SMU 14 (2010 Armed Forces Bowl) All-Time Bowl Record: 5-6-1 *out for the season

NOTING THE MUSTANGS: The Mustangs will be making bowl appearances in three consecutive seasons for just the second time in school history (1982-84)....SMU Head Coach June Jones will be seeking his 100th career coaching victory in the game, as his career record stands at 99-69....SMU's passing offense ranks 22nd in the FBS, averaging 277.8 yards per game.

Pittsburgh (6-6, 4-3 in Big East) Website: www.pittsburghpanthers.com Head Coach: Todd Graham (East Central '87) Career Record: 49-29 (6th year) Record at Pitt: 6-6 (1st year) Offense: Multiple No-Huddle Defense: Attacking 3-4 Leading Passer: Tino Sunseri (228-of-357, 2,433 yds., 10 TD) Leading Rusher: *Ray Graham (164 att., 958 yds., 9 TD) Leading Receiver: Devin Street (48 rec., 692 yds., 2 TD) Last Game: Pittsburgh 33, Syracuse 20 Last Bowl Appearance: 2010 BBVA Compass (Pittsburgh 27, Kentucky 10) All-Time Bowl Record: 12-15 *out for the season

NOTING THE PANTHERS: Pittsburgh is coached by Todd Graham, former head coach at Rice and Tulsa....Graham was 3-2 vs. SMU as head coach of Rice and Tulsa....Todd Graham has led his teams to bowl games in five of his first six games as a head coach....This is the second straight year that the Panthers are playing in the BBVA Compass Bowl. Pitt defeated Kentucky, 27-10, in last year's game. The Panthers are playing in a bowl for the fourth straight season.

GAME NOTES: This will the first meeting between the two teams since the 1983 Cotton Bowl when SMU defeated Dan Marino and the Pitt Panthers, 7-3, to finish and undefeated season (11-0-1)....Both teams have highly productive running backs that suffered season-ending injuries late in the year. SMU's Zach Line continues to lead C-USA in rushing with 1,224 yards and 17 touchdowns, despite missing the final two regular season games with a foot injury. Pitt's Ray Graham ran for 958 yards and nine TD's before suffering an injury on Oct. 26 that ended his season.



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