James Henry returned 2 punts for touchdowns and set 2 game records to lead Southern Mississippi to a 38-18 victory over Texas El Paso Friday night in the 13th Independence Bowl.
Henry scored on returns of 65 and 45 yards as Southern Mississippi ended the season at 10-2. Texas El Paso finished at 10-3.
After UTEP stalled on its first drive of the second half, Henry took the ensuing punt just inside the hash mark and cut toward the sideline, outracing Texas El Paso defenders to the end zone to put Southern Mississippi ahead, 17-7.
With 5:38 left in the third quarter, the senior cornerback returned another punt 45 yards for a score to increase the Golden Eagle lead to 31-7.
The 65-yard return broke the game record of 60 yards set by Louisville’s Kevin Miller in 1977 against Louisiana Tech. Henry returned 3 punts for 108 yards to break the mark of 67 yards, also set by Miller in 1977.
Shelton Gandy also scored twice in the second half to help put the game out of reach. Gandy scored first on a 1-yard dive with 9:52 left in the third quarter. Southern Mississippi took over on the UTEP 25-yard line after tackling punter Lance Brownlee, who couldn’t handle the snap, and scored four plays later.
Gandy added a 7-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter to cap a 60-yard, 6-play drive. Gandy carried on every play during the drive.
UTEP took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 30-yard pass from quarterback Pat Hegarty to Reggie Barrett.
Chris Seroka kicked a 26-yard field goal late in the first quarter, and Brett Favre hit Reginald Warnsley with a 3-yard pass with 19 seconds left in the first half to give Southern Mississippi the lead for good, 10-7.
The game was the last at UTEP for Coach Bob Stull, who is leaving to take the coaching job at Missouri.
Organizers said only 20,242 tickets were sold for the game.