HONOLULU — As if being 5,500 miles from Hattiesburg and having Waikiki beach as a backyard wasn't enough, Conference USA champion Southern Mississippi had to deal with even more distractions.
The 22nd-ranked Golden Eagles (11-2) face Western Athletic Conference runner-up Nevada (7-5) in the Hawaii Bowl on Saturday in what will be the final game under coach Larry Fedora.
"It's going to be tough. There's a piece of my heart and soul in this football team," said Fedora, who is leaving after four seasons to lead North Carolina. "I deeply care about each and every one of those kids. ... But I do know, they're going to look back at this season and say we won however many games, a conference championship and we went to Hawaii. That's what they'll remember for the rest of their lives."
Southern Miss won a school-record 11 games this season en route to capturing its fifth C-USA title by upsetting Houston 49-28 in the conference championship game behind Austin Davis' four touchdown passes. It was the Golden Eagles' first 10-win season since 1988.
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While Southern Miss is making its first trip here since beating Hawaii in 1977, Nevada is no stranger to the islands, or the Hawaii Bowl.
Nevada is making its seventh straight post-season 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 overtime in 2005 and lost to SMU 45-10 in 2009.
Orange Bowl scraps planned cigar sponsorship
Orange Bowl officials say they've scrapped a planned sponsorship deal with Camacho Cigars.
Orange Bowl spokesman Larry Wahl said in an email Friday that after mutual review, it was determined that it would not be appropriate to go forward with the sponsorship.
The planned sponsorship called for a large presence at several game-day events, including lounges where fans could light up. The three-year deal included the 2013 BCS National Championship. Wahl says that plans were limited to non-game events geared toward adults.
This week, U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, Frank Lautenberg and Richard Blumenthal, as well as several public health groups, asked bowl officials and the NCAA to reconsider the deal. They argued that promoting cigars at the Orange Bowl would send the wrong message to young fans.
Thursday's MAACO Bowl
Hey, BCS — No. 8 Boise State wants your attention.
The Broncos see their 56-24 victory over Arizona State on Thursday night in the MAACO Bowl as more than just a win over a middle-tier Pac-12 team.
"I think we made a statement," said Doug Martin, who returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and was voted the game's MVP. "It comes down to players who have a chip on their shoulders. It shows we're here and we're winners."
Boise State (12-1) finished seventh in the BCS standings, but wasn't invited to one of its big-money bowl games — the fourth time that has happened after the school finished within the BCS' top 10. The Mountain West and Pac-12 each received $1.1 million from the bowl.
Coach Chris Petersen said the Broncos looked at the game as another chance to showcase the program to a national audience.
"There were two things we wanted to do in this game: Start fast, and they did that, and finish strong, and they did that," Petersen said.
It also gave the Broncos a chance to say goodbye to Kellen Moore, the NCAA's winningest quarterback who led Boise State on a remarkable four-year run.
He threw for 293 yards and two touchdowns, though he also had two interceptions and lost a fumble. The turnovers won't matter as fans in Idaho remember the star who has set school records for passing yards, touchdowns, completions and total offense, and finished fifth among NCAA quarterbacks for passing yards while racking up 50 total wins.