Southern Mississippi's win in the New Orleans Bowl was a lot like the rest of the Golden Eagles' season — a struggle. Shawn Nelson caught two...

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LAFAYETTE, La. — Southern Mississippi’s win in the New Orleans Bowl was a lot like the rest of the Golden Eagles’ season — a struggle.

Shawn Nelson caught two second-half touchdowns, and Cody Hull added 161 yards rushing to lead Southern Mississippi over Arkansas State 31-19 Tuesday night in the first of the season’s 28 bowl games.

Southern Miss (7-5) endured plenty of turmoil long before arriving in Lafayette, where the New Orleans Bowl was moved because of Hurricane Katrina. The Golden Eagles had two games postponed in September because of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, had to relocate temporarily to Memphis, Tenn., and played nine games in nine weeks to end the regular season.

“What a resilient bunch of football players,” Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower said after the win.

Against 17-point underdog Arkansas State (6-6), the Golden Eagles fumbled twice on their first two drives and didn’t take control until well into the second half.

Arkansas State tied the score at 17 in the third quarter on Nick Noce’s 2-yard pass to Manuel Burton.

But Dustin Almond answered with a 29-yard toss to Nelson to make it 24-17.


Texas El-Paso (8-3) vs. Toledo (8-3)

Time/site/TV: 5 p.m. today; Mobile, Ala.; ESPN.

Surface: Artificial.

Line: Toledo by 3.

Payout per team: $750,000.

Bowl records: Texas-El Paso 5-6, Toledo 6-3.

Series: First meeting.

Analysis: UTEP is coached by ex-Washington State coach Mike Price. Miners QB Jordan Palmer is the brother of Cincinnati Bengals QB Carson Palmer, who won the 2002 Heisman Trophy during his career at USC. The younger Palmer has passed for 3,340 yards and 28 touchdowns this season. Toledo QB Bruce Gradkowski has thrown for 2,171 yards and 24 TDs.

Extra point: High scores have been the rule in this bowl — such as Marshall’s 64-61 win over East Carolina in double OT in 2001. Last year, Bowling Green beat Memphis 52-35.

Gannett News Service and The Associated Press

Paterno is voted AP coach of year

NEW YORK — Penn State’s Joe Paterno, whose 79th birthday is today, was an overwhelming choice as The Associated Press college coach of the year.

Paterno, who guided the Nittany Lions to a 10-1 record, got 45 of 65 votes from the AP media panel. Texas’ Mack Brown was second with eight votes.


• A week after a state audit criticized Colorado’s spending on sports, the school has outlined plans to spend about $36,000 on iPods to reward its players for making it to the Dec. 27 Champs Sports Bowl.

The university filed a request for bids Monday for 103 of the hand-held music players for up to $350 each.

Many schools buy gifts for players after a successful season. Previously, Buffaloes players have been given portable CD players, electronic organizers and DVD players.

• Two Clemson players — tight end Bobby Williamson and defensive end Kwam Williams — were suspended for academic reasons and will miss the Champs Sports Bowl. Tigers receiver Kelvin Grant was dismissed for allegedly violating team rules.

• Missouri safety Jason Simpson, a four-year starter and team captain, will not travel with the Tigers to the Dec. 30 Independence Bowl because he was arrested over the weekend on suspicion of marijuana possession.

Simpson was arrested after his name popped up in a criminal database for failing to appear in court on a littering charge from last year. After a search, he was cited for possession of less than 35 grams of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. All the charges are misdemeanors.

• Wisconsin wide receiver Marcus Randle El has been cleared to return to the team and might play against Auburn in the Jan. 2 Capital One Bowl despite being arrested on a battery charge last weekend. He is the brother of Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antwaan Randle El.

• Florida safety Reggie Nelson probably will miss the Jan. 2 Outback Bowl against Iowa because of a sprained knee ligament. He was injured Monday in practice.

• USC quarterback Matt Leinart was selected 2005 Sportsman of the Year by The Sporting News. He won the 2004 Heisman Trophy.

• Former Kansas coach Terry Allen was hired as coach at Missouri State, which finished 4-6 this year.

Allen, most recently an Iowa State assistant, will replace Randy Ball, who was fired in November.

• Coach Bob Benson of Georgetown resigned after going 72-64 in 13 seasons at the school.