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December 1, 2006

Houston tops Southern Miss for C-USA title

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HOUSTON - Kevin Kolb threw two touchdown passes to Biren Ealy and ran for another score to lead Houston to a 34-20 win over Southern Mississippi in the Conference USA championship Friday night.

Kolb completed 19 of 31 passes for 258 yards and became the conference's career passing leader, leapfrogging Louisville quarterback Chris Redman. Kolb, making his 49th career start, has 12,578 passing yards.

Kolb also had a 46-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that gave the Cougars the lead for good.

Kolb's two TD passes moved him into second place on the league's career list, two behind Redman's record of 84.

Vincent Marshall, Houston's career receiving leader, caught eight passes for 100 yards and had a touchdown run on a lateral for the Cougars (10-3), who won their first Conference USA title since 1996, the league's inaugural season.

Houston has matched its highest win total since 1990 and heads to the Liberty Bowl on a six-game winning streak.

Jeremy Young had a touchdown run and threw a TD pass to Chris Johnson to lead the Golden Eagles (8-5), who will play Ohio in the GMAC Bowl.

The Cougars trailed 17-13 at halftime, but came from behind to win for the sixth straight game.

Early in the third quarter, Kolb faked a handoff to Jackie Battle and sprinted for a touchdown, the longest run of his career.

Kolb, Conference USA's career leader in total offense, went 6-for-6 on Houston's next drive and found Ealy for a 33-yard touchdown with 2:52 left in the third quarter.

While Kolb hit his stride after a sluggish first half, Houston's defense held Southern Miss to 46 yards and two first downs in the third quarter.

Darren McCaleb kicked a 31-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter to cut Houston's lead to 27-20.

But Kolb drove the Cougars to the Southern Miss 32, then lofted a TD pass to Ealy down the sideline with 4:25 left. After the touchdown, Kolb jogged to the sideline and high-fived quarterbacks coach Philip Montgomery.

Southern Miss had beaten Houston in seven of the previous eight meetings, including a 31-27 victory on Oct. 14.

The game drew 31,818, the largest crowd in the history of Robertson Stadium, which was built in the 1940s and expanded in 1999.



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