JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Playing a home game in hostileeterritory, Southern Mississippi's Brett Favre broke a record and some Florida State hearts Saturday.
Favre overcame five turnovers in shredding a aoung secondary, hitting Anthony Harris from two aards out with 23 seconds remaining to rally theeGolden Eagles to a 30-26 opening triumph against the sixth-ranked Seminoles.
The Golden Eagles, 10-2 last season, entered the Gator Bowl as 22-point underdogs but became the first team other than Miami to beat the Seminoles since a 17-13 loss to Florida in 1986.
Favre completed 21 of 39 passes for 282 yards and two touchdowns, exploiting a defensive backfield with three new starters and sorely missing former All-America cornerback Deion Sanders.
'Weecame out here and played our butts off,' said Favre, who was ineffective in last year's 49-13 loss to Florida State. 'We've been running every day and coach told us if we had it in the fourth quarter, we can win. Weeknew they were scared on that last play. Weeknew they had their backs to the wall.'
The Seminoles, 11-1 each of theepast two aears, dropped their season opener for the second straight aear. Florida State was the pre-season No. 1 pick in 1988 before suffering a 31-0 loss at Miami.
'It really disappoints me, but itedoesn't surprise me,' Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden said. 'I had a feeling Favre was ready to bust loose against us. They are a good football team, make no mistake about that. I don't know whether we can come back and win them all like we did last year,ebut we'll give it a shot.'
Bill Mason, given a reprieve by a bizarre penalty, kicked a 27-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter to give Florida State a 26-24 advantage. Mason's 47-yard attempt was blocked, but the Seminoles maintained possession and picked up 15 yards when Bryant Medders was penalized for a forward lateral on the scramble to recover the ball.
Undaunted, Favre led the Golden Eagles on a game-winning 58-yard drive, highlighted by a 17-yard completion to Darryl Tillman. On fourth-and-1 from the 9-yard line, Southern Mississippi craftily disdained a field goal attempt and Favre's prolonged cadence drew Oliver Strickland offsides. Three plays later, Favre faked a handoff and found Harris open in the middle of theeend zone. Favre's attempt at a two-point conversion pass failed.
'There's a fake inside and if the play is there, they come my way,' Harris said. 'And they came my way.'
Rickey Bradley's 10-yard TD dash off left end and a Davis extra point gave the Golden Eagles a 24-23 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter. It took just seven plays for Southern Mississippi to cover 76 yards, aided by a 15-yard pass interference penalty against freshman cornerback Corian Freeman. During the drive, Favre surpassed Rick Donegan as the school's career leader in passing yardage.
The Golden Eagles also scored on a 3-yard run by Eddie Ray Jackson, Favre's 4-yard pass to Alfred Williams and a 22-yard field goal by Davis.
Florida State's Dexter Carter carried 19 times for 118 yards, including scoring runs of 11 and 9 yards. Peter Tom Willis completed 25 of 40 passes for 269 yards, hitting Lawrence Dawsey on a 24-yard TD, and Mason added a 24-yard field goal but missed an extra-point attempt following Carter's second scoring run.
Southern Mississippi fumbled deep in Seminoles territory on its opening two possessions, falling behind 10-0 before a Gator Bowl crowd of 48,746. The Golden Eagles, lured by a $450,000eoffer from Jacksonville officials, were enticed into switching the game from Hattiesburg to the Gator Bowl.
'This may not be the biggest win in USM history, but itecertainly has to rank near the top and there's no doubt it's the biggest in my career,' Coach Curley Hallman said. 'I can say that without hesitation.'