AP Sports Writer
POSTED: 03:57 p.m. HST, Dec 04, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 05:04 p.m. HST, Dec 04, 2011
Conference USA champions Southern Mississippi will face Western Athletic Conference runner-up Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl.
The 22nd-ranked Golden Eagles (11-2) and the Wolf Pack (7-5) accepted invitations Sunday to play in the Dec. 24 game at Aloha Stadium, said David Matlin, the bowl’s executive director.
Southern Miss won a school-record 11 games this season en route to capturing its fifth straight C-USA title by upsetting previously unbeaten Houston 49-28 in Saturday’s conference championship game behind Austin Davis’ four touchdown passes.
The Golden Eagles on Sunday moved up two spots in the AP Top 25 while the Cougars plummeted 13 spots to No. 20 in the poll.
Southern Miss football coach Larry Fedora said he was extremely excited for the team and coaching staff to make its first trip to the bowl game.
“This is a tremendous trip for this Conference USA championship team that reached new heights this season and we are thrilled about the opportunity to face a very talented Nevada squad,” he said.
The Golden Eagles will be making their 10th consecutive bowl appearance and 14th in the last 15 years.
“The Sheraton Hawaii Bowl is a class bowl and playing a nationally ranked Southern Miss team presents us with a great opportunity,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said.
While Southern Miss will be making a rare appearance in the islands, Nevada is no stranger to the islands, or the Hawaii Bowl.
Nevada is making its seventh straight postseason appearance and 12th overall. It will be playing in the Hawaii Bowl for the third time since 2005. Nevada defeated Central Florida 49-48 in an overtime shootout in 2005 and lost to SMU 45-10 in 2009.
Nevada, featuring a high-powered offense that ranks fifth in the nation with 522.8 yards a game, breezed through the most of its WAC opponents in its final season in the conference but struggled to close out games last month, falling to Louisiana Tech and Utah State before hammering Idaho 56-3 on Saturday to end the regular season tied for second in the WAC with a 5-2 mark. The Wolf Pack will move to the Mountain West Conference next season.
This will be the third meeting between Nevada and Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles won 35-19 in Hattiesburg in 1997 and beat the Wolf Pack 55-28 in Reno the following year.
The game is scheduled for 3 p.m. Hawaii time and will be televised on ESPN.