HATTIESBURG, Miss.(AP) For the first time in 18 seasons, Southern Mississippi had a rookie head coaching roaming the sidelines.
Fortunately for the Golden Eagles, they had a veteran in the backfield.
Junior tailback Damion Fletcher rushed for a career high 222 yards and two touchdowns as Southern Mississippi (1-0) won Larry Fedora's debut as a head coach 51-21 Saturday night over Louisiana-Lafayette (0-1) before a crowd of 32,792 at M.M. Roberts Stadium.
Fedora, formerly the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma St., replaced longtime Golden Eagles head coach Jeff Bower and watched as his team rolled up 633 yards of total offense.
``That's just one down and a bunch to go,'' Fedora said. ``We did some good things offensively and on defense we created some opportunities for us to take advantage of. That's always a good combination.''
Fletcher picked up 184 yards on 16 carries and had two scores in the first half, as USM (1-0) took a quick 21-0 lead and went on to a 34-14 halftime advantage.
The Golden Eagles would rush for 406 yards in the win.
``I just ran hard and we had fun,'' Fletcher said. ``The offensive line did a great job, the holes were always there all I had to do was run through them.''
With USM comfortably ahead, he only ran the ball five times in the second half but was able to break his previous career high of 211 yards against Texas El-Paso last year.
Golden Eagles quarterback Austin Davis, in his first start for USM, ran for two touchdowns in the first half and threw for another as well. He later added another late scoring pass.
Fletcher had scoring runs of 14 and 6 yards, while Davis had a pair of 1-yard keepers.
With his first scoring run, Fletcher became just the fourth back in USM history to rush for more than 3,000 yards in a career.
Davis hit Ed Morgan on a 23-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.
The Ragin-Cajuns (0-1) managed a pair of touchdown runs, a 1-yarder by Julian Shankle and a 3-yarder by Tyrell Fentroy, in the first half. The Golden Eagles went right back to work in the third quarter, as Britt Barefoot kicked a 25 yard field goal and Bubba Kirksey scored on a 3-yard run to make it 44-14.
In a reserve role, Kirksey ran for 110 yards on 20 carries as USM rolled up 406 yards on the ground. Davis ended his night with a 30-yard touchdown pass to highly touted freshman DeAndre Brown with 13:53 to play. Davis completed 14-of-21 passes for 206 yards and the two scores.
``It was a good beginning, but we have lot of work left to do,'' Fedora said. ``But I saw a lot of positive things we can build on.''
Southern Mississippi travels to Auburn next while the Ragin Cajuns take a week off before traveling to Illinois.