Conference USA News and Notes

11:43 AM, Nov 26, 2012   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -

EAST CAROLINA: Shane Carden set a school-record with 439 passing yards and accounted for six total touchdowns as the Pirates (8-4, 7-1) escaped their double-overtime thriller versus the Marshall Thundering Herd with a 65-59 win. ECU led 35-14 with 6:56 left in the first half, but Marshall scored 21 unanswered points to tie it up in the third quarter. After the Herd took a 52-45 lead with just under two minutes remaining in the game, Carden engineered a 76-yard drive that ended with a six-yard touchdown pass to Danny Webster to tie the score with only four seconds on the clock. The sophomore QB completed a touchdown pass on the opening play of the first overtime. Marshall answered, but fumbled in the second overtime, which set up Carden to score the game-winning touchdown on the ground. Justin Hardy set a single-game receptions record with 16 catches for 171 yards, as the Pirates tied UCF for first in the East Division. However, the Knights own the tie-breaker which means ECU will wait to find out it next opponent.

HOUSTON: The Cougars finished their 2012 season off with a 40-17 win over Tulane. The contest was the last to be held at Robertson Stadium which is scheduled to be demolished. It was also the last game for Houston in the conference, as it will be a member of the Big East next season. Senior quarterback Crawford Jones threw for 368 yards and two touchdowns in the second start of his career while Ryan Jackson added 129 yards and two scores on the ground to pace the offense. In his first year at the helm of the program, Tony Levine's team finished 5-7 overall and 4-4 in league play.

MARSHALL: The Thundering Herd came up just short of bowl eligibility with a 5-7 overall finish. Marshall had one last chance going into its season finale at East Carolina, but it lost 65-59 to the Pirates in a double-overtime thriller. Tommy Shuler broke the all-time MU single-season receptions mark with 14 Friday to bring his 2012 season total to 110. Essray Taliaferro made his first career start and rushed for 130 yards, but he also made a costly error when he fumbled in the second overtime. D.J. Hunter had 18 tackles to lead the defense, which is his career-high and a season-high for any Herd defender. Rakeem Cato became the fourth quarterback in program history to throw for 4,000 yards in season with 318 on Friday which brought his 2012 total to 4,201.

MEMPHIS: Justin Fuente put an exclamation point at the end of his first season as the Tigers' head coach with a 42-24 win over Southern Miss. Jacob Karam passed for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Brandon Hayes gained a game-high 115 yards and dashed into the end zone twice on 19 attempts, while Jai Steib contributed another 89 yards and two TDs on his 16 carries in the victory. Memphis combined for a season-best 437 yards of total offense. The defense held Southern Miss to 288 total yards, marking the third-straight game an opponent failed to surpass the 300-yard mark. The game marked the end of the Tigers' era in the C-USA, as they are one of a few teams leaving for the Big East. Their final league record was 4-4 after the season-ending three-game winning streak.

RICE: The Owls became bowl eligible in their final chance to do so with a 33-24 win over Texas-El Paso, which was led by coach Mike Price for the final time. Rice overcame a second-half deficit and Julian Eddington returned a kick 97 yards for a touchdown to seal the deal. His kick return broke the school's nation leading streak of 320 games without a kickoff return. The team gained 453 yards of total offense on 85 snaps. Charles Ross rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns while Vance McDonald reeled in a career-high nine receptions for 99 yards. Taylor McHargue was steady with 207 yards on 21-of-30 passing. Cameron Nwosu paced the defensive unit with seven tackles, two tackles for loss, and a sack. The Owls, who are now 6-6 overall and 4-4 in league play after winning their last four, are a definite to play in their third bowl game in seven seasons due to conference affiliations.

SMU: The Mustangs became bowl eligible for a school-record fourth straight season with a 35-27 victory over the conference leading Tulsa Golden Hurricane in their final regular season game as a member of the conference. Garrett Gilbert ran for 111 yards and a touchdown and threw for another 113 yards and a score to pace the offense. Zach Line ran for 81 yards and three touchdowns. Linebacker Ja'Gared Davis impacted the game by recording a blocked punt, a fumble recovery, and an interception. Coach June Jones' squad is now 6-6 overall and 5-3 in the league standings. SMU will find out which bowl game it is playing in this week.

SOUTHERN MISS: The Golden Eagles ended their first season under coach Ellis Johnson with a 0-12 record and 0-8 in C-USA play as they were handed a 42-24 setback by Memphis. It was the first winless season for the program since 1925. In its loss to the Tigers, USM was held to 288 yards of total offense. Once again, more than one quarterback saw action under center. Arsenio Favor and Anthony Alford combined to convert 13-of-27 passes for 193 yards and three TDs, while also getting sacked four times. The defensive unit allowed the Tigers to achieve their season-high with 437 yards of total offense in its final appearance in 2012.

TEXAS-EL PASO: The Miners were unable to give Mike Price a fitting goodbye as they were defeated 33-24 to end their season 3-9 overall and 2-6 in league play. Price's retirement came after 31 years of coaching experience. In the finale of his collegiate career, Nick Lamaison threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns, but he completed just 8-of-22 pass attempts and was sacked four times. Nathan Jeffery rushed for 95 yards and a score, while Michael Edwards (five receptions, 121 yards) and Jordan Leslie (three receptions, 168 yards) were on the receiving end of the touchdown strikes. Josh Fely registered a career-best 16 tackles to become the first Miner with more than 100 tackles since 2009. UTEP will now head into the offseason during which it will locate Price's replacement.

TULANE: The Green Wave finished their season on a four-game losing slide as they were beat, 40-17, at Houston on Saturday. Tulane had no answers on the defensive side of the ball as the Cougars finished with 591 yards of total offense. Senior QB Ryan Griffin threw for 346 yards and two touchdowns on 36- of-66 passing but also struggled with turnovers, tossing four interceptions. The league's leading wideout Ryan Grant caught a career-high 13 passes for 108 yards. Grant completed the third-best season in school history with 1,149 yards and six touchdowns on 76 receptions. Junior kicker Cairo Santos connected on his lone field goal to finish 21-of-21 on the year and become just the second kicker in FBS history to finish perfect with 20 or more field goals. Coach Curtis Johnson's squad ended with a 2-10 overall record and a 2-6 mark in conference action.

TULSA: The Golden Hurricane never recovered from a slow start and dropped a 35-27 decision to SMU in their regular-season finale. The Golden Hurricane had already clinched the C-USA West Division title and a spot in Friday's conference title game, but its perfect league record was spoiled with the setback. Tulsa set school records for total plays with 103 and pass attempts with 65. It also gained 591 yards of total offense to SMU's 305. A blocked Tulsa punt and two turnovers led to 21 SMU points in the first 20 minutes of the game. Cody Green completed 36-of-64 passes for a career-high 413 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Tulsa will host UCF on Friday in this season's C-USA Championship game.

UAB: Although UAB amassed 510 passing yards as a team, it was handed a 49-24 setback in its 2012 season finale by UCF. The Blazers finished with a 3-9 overall record and a 2-6 mark in league play. Linebacker Marvin Burdette became the first player in school history to reach 400 career tackles by registering 15 in his final appearance. Darrin Reaves gained 71 rushing yards to become just the second player in school history to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark on the ground. Junior quarterback Jonathan Perry threw for 307 yards, two touchdown passes and a rushing score, while freshman quarterback Austin Brown completed 16-of-28 passes for 203 yards. Senior wide receiver Patrick Hearn recorded the a career-high of 201 yards and a score on eight receptions in the loss.

UCF: Wide receiver Quincy McDuffie scored three rushing touchdowns to help the Knights punch their ticket to the conference championship game with a 49-24 victory over UAB. UCF's ground game piled up 229 yards (5.9 ypc) and four touchdowns on the day with Latavius Murray tallying a team-best 94 yards and scored a TD for the seventh straight contest. Sophomore QB Blake Bortles completed 17-of-23 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns. Safety Clayton Geathers anchored the defense with a career-high 17 tackles and Lyle Dankenbring scored his first career touchdown on a 78-yard interception return. UCF will go on the road to play Tulsa for the C-USA crown on Friday, which will be its last contest in the league before departing to the Big East.

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