BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -Ben Mauk and No. 20 Cincinnati spoiled Jeff Bower's farewell.
Mauk passed for 334 yards and four touchdowns and DeAngelo Smith intercepted three passes Saturday, leading the Bearcats to a 31-21 win over Southern Miss and its outgoing coach in the Papajohns.com Bowl.
The victory gave Cincinnati (10-3) its second 10-win season and first since 1951, while virtually assuring a spot in the final rankings for the first time.
Mauk completed 30 of 52 passes and overcame three interceptions to become only the third Bearcats player to have a 3,000-yard passing season. It was a nice finish for the former Wake Forest starter and for first-year Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly, but a difficult one for Southern Miss (7-6) and Bower.
This was the final game for Bower after 17 seasons at his alma mater, a stay that ranks behind only that of Joe Paterno, Bobby Bowden and Frank Beamer among current coaches. He was forced to resign after a disappointing regular season, leading to the hiring of Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Larry Fedora.
His team couldn't convert several chances to at least make the ending interesting. Mostly, though, they couldn't stop Kelly's spread offense.
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