HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- Southern Miss head football coach Jeff
Bower has been named Conference USA coach of the year and Golden
Eagles linebacker Rod Davis won C-USA defensive player of the year.
The awards were handed out Thursday and voted on by the league's
head coaches and media members.
Bower, 50, led the Golden Eagles to a 9-3 record, going 8-0 in
conference play. Southern Miss won its first C-USA title since
The Golden Eagles will represent the conference at the AXA
Liberty Bowl in Memphis on Dec. 31, facing Mountain West Conference
Bower has a record of 89-61-1 in 13 seasons with Southern Miss,
making him the longest tenured coach in the league.
Since Conference USA began football competition in 1996,
Southern Miss has posted a 42-11 mark in league play with four
regular season championships.
Bower has led the Eagles to 10 consecutive winning seasons and
seven bowl appearances.
"First our players have worked hard each and every week, fought
through the early adversity and grew together to win the
championship through a total team effort," he said. "I can't say
enough about our seniors and the leadership they provided all
"Second is our coaching staff. They have done an outstanding
job, and they never really get the credit they deserve."
The Golden Eagles started 3-3 this season, but ended the year
with six straight wins.
"Coach Bower never gave up on us," quarterback Dustin Almond
said. "He pushed us harder when we were down. He is a great
motivator and pushed us each day in practice and every game to
improve. It's great to see him win this award."
Memphis sophomore running back DeAngelo Williams was named
offensive player of the year. TCU kicker Nick Browne was named as
the league's special teams player of the year. True freshman
quarterback Kevin Kolb of Houston was named the league's freshman
of the year.
Davis became the fourth Golden Eagles player to win C-USA
defensive player of the year honors.
He leads Southern Miss in tackles (148), solo tackles (103),
forced fumbles (four) and is second in tackles for loss (17).
"It is extra special, because he made the decision to come back
(for his senior season) and achieved his goals that he set for
returning," Bower said. "He graduated and won a conference
championship. He means a lot to this program, not only because of
his on the field contribution but also because of his leadership."
Davis has three sacks, three pass breakups, 11 quarterback
hurries and one fumble recovery.
He is No. 2 in Conference USA in tackles, No. 1 in solo tackles
and fourth in tackles for loss and tied for first in fumbles
forced. He had a career-high 22 tackles at Cincinnati.
Davis is the career leader in Conference USA in tackles and
tackles for loss.
Southern Miss cornerback Patrick Surtain won the award in 1996.
Defensive end Adalius Thomas won it twice in 1998 and 1999 and
defensive end Cedric Scott took the award in 2000.