Tuesday morning our athletic director posted to Facebook my favorite quote about Southern Miss. It’s from Mickey Spagnola’s Clarion Ledger article on the Sunday morning after the upset win over Alabama in 1982. The win ended Bear Bryan’t 57-game home sinning streak, and it was Bear Bryant’s final game at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
“If you are going to war and if you get to pick first, choose Southern Mississippi. Always choose Southern Mississippi. No matter how hard you fight, these folks will fight harder.”
“I told them at the end of practice today, ‘If we’re going to do something a little different here that no other team has done, we’re going to have to take it an extra step. A lot of teams have won the conference championship here. A lot of teams have double digit wins. About the only thing they haven’t done is get in a BCS game. If you want to get in, you have to beat some teams that are better than us on paper and we’re going to have to quit losing to teams that we have better players than. The way to do it is get more consistent and disciplined with fundamentals and assignments and those types of things.’ I love the competitiveness and the team speed. We’ve got a lot to build on.”
Reading between the lines: You can’t beat Houston and lose to UAB in the same year and still demand respect and a seat at the BCS table.
[A Southern Miss web banner currently running on Mississippi new sites.]
Many Ole Miss and Mississippi State fans simply enjoy a giving a good ribbing toward Southern Miss fans because that’s what fans do.
There are the small minority who feel a little more strongly. They’s point to the 36,000 seat stadium, the association with Conference USA, the poor basketball facilities. But it’s getting harder and harder to mock what has and is being accomplished. No one can deny what the football program has done, especially over the last 18 years where every season resulted in a winning record, the school has been to 10-straight bowl games and won 5 conference championships (the most of any C-USA member). Tack on the consistent success of the baseball program and the resugence of the basketball program and Southern Miss’ “All We Do Is Win” motto stands for itself.
The Hattiesburg American recently interviewed defensive coordinator Tommy West and offensive coordinator Rickey Bustle:
“The good thing about here is this is a football place,” West said. “These guys came here to be good in football.
“I kind of see now there’s a great mentality here about winning – whether it’s baseball or basketball. It’s nice being a part of this. It reminds me a little bit of when I was at Clemson. They really don’t just expect to win, they expect to be really good. I feel that here.”
West admitted it was a very different scenario when he took over as head coach at Memphis in 2001.
“The bar was really low,” he said. “It was ‘Man, if we could ever just go to a bowl game,’ because they hadn’t been to one in 30-something years.
“We go to five bowls in our last seven years and get fired. So we moved the bar.”
If winning counted for anything, the Big East would have invited Southern Miss instead of Memphis, Central Florida, SMU and Houston, the teams the Big East raided from Conference USA. Let’s put it this way: USM’s all-time record against those four schools stands at 58-27, including 40-21 against Memphis. In fact, USM’s record against all Big East teams stands 86-45-1. Yet, under current rules, the Big East champion gets an automatic BCS Bowl bid while USM plays in a conference that does not.
10. Southern Miss (12-2) Previous rank: 8
The Golden Eagles beat Nevada, 24-17, in the Hawaii Bowl. A stunning upset victory for the conference championship, a bowl-game win, and a free trip to Honolulu—how many teams had a better year than that, really?
Southern Miss’ Defense broke a 40 year-old FBS record in 2011 with 8 interceptions returned for touchdowns, meaning that of their 18 interceptions (tied for 5th in FBS) almost half became a Pick 6. However, these stats only speak to part of the craziness that was the 2011 season. (Why “crazy”? Because, really, who loses to UAB only to turn around and defeat #6 Houston two weeks later?)
Overall, 25 different Southern Miss players scored touchdowns in 2011. I’ve cataloged the Defensive and Special Teams touchdowns below. On a “Crazy Scale” (official NCAA scientific terminology?) of 1-5… 1 being “Kinda Crazy, Bro” and 5 being “Very Crazy, Bro”… I’ve rated the following Southern Miss Defense and Special Teams stats from their 14 games of 2011.
The most mind-blowing (are mid-majors allowed to use that term?) game of all has to be the East Carolina, who was at one point down 21-7 to USM without Southern Miss having scored a single Offensive touchdown.
Individual games stats and videos below.
8 interceptions returned for TDs (FBS record) [Crazy scale of 5]
2 fake punts out of their own end zone for gains of 29 and 31-yards respectively [Crazy scale of 5]
3 blocked punts for TDs [Crazy scale of 4]
1 blocked FG returned for a TD [Crazy scale of 2]
1 fake field goal for a TD [Crazy scale of 1]
1 fumble returned for a TD [Crazy scale of 1]
1 punt returned for a TD [Crazy scale of 1]
Southern Miss vs SELA
Korey Williams 60-yard interception return for TD
Octavius Thomas 6-yard interception return for TD
Southern Miss vs Virginia
Danny Hrapmann fake Punt out of own end zone for 31-yard gain
Southern Miss vs Rice
Marquese Wheaton 96-yard fumble return for TD
Southern Miss at Navy
Marquese Wheaton 79-yard blocked field goal return for TD
Southern Miss vs SMU
Marquese Wheaton 41-yard interception return for TD
Southern Miss at East Carolina
Jamie Collins 97-yard interception return for TD
Tracy Lampley 60-yard punt return for TD
Emmanuel Johnson 15-yard blocked punt return for TD
Deron Wilson 79-yard interception return for TD
Southern Miss at UAB
Fake FG for TD – Ryan Hanks 10 yd pass from Peter Boehme
Southern Miss vs Memphis
Deron Wilson 35-yard interception return
Kendrick Presley 100-yard interception return for TD
Southern Miss at Houston [C-USA Championship Game]
Furious Bradley 11-yard blocked punt return
Ronnie Thornton 26-yard interception return
Southern Miss vs Nevada [Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl]
Tray Becton-Martin 0-yard blocked punt for TD
Danny Hrapmann fake Punt out of own end zone for 29-yard gain
A little bit of homerism in this post, but some revealing numbers on just what a good and a bad season can do to key college football demographics.
Ole Miss has fallen to the third most popular sports team in the state. Mississippi State topped the list with 36 percent favoring MSU, 27 percent for Southern Miss, and just 21 percent selecting Ole Miss. Going 2-10 with three straight Egg Bowl loses will do that for you. But here is an interesting note from the crosstabs: Among those 18-29, Southern Miss is the top choice favored by 41 percent of voters in that age group.
I’m angry that I, and my wife, and my extended family, and tons of friends cannot go to the bowl game… but Rick Cleveland makes a great point:
USM could have gone to Dallas, Birmingham, New Orleans, or back to St. Petersburg, Fla., where the Eagles played last year.
Both Fedora and athletic director Richard Giannini say that the decision was left to Fedora, who chose the Honolulu bowl. Many USM fans are angry because 1) they canâ€™t make the trip; and 2) the Christmas Eve slot and 3) USM could have played Penn State or BYU in one of the Texas bowls.
Fedora wanted to reward the players the best way he knew how for their record-setting season. Letâ€™s see now: Dallas in January or Honolulu at Christmas?
Hula skirts or earmuffs? White sandy beaches or a good chance of a sheet of ice?
Penn State, any other year, would have been intriguing. Penn State this year meant you would play in a game where the media focus was going to be on child sex abuse.
But this isn’t Silly Season in Mississippi this year. No, this is the Magnolia State’s football version of an insane asylum. We’ll get to the coaching part, as well, but let’s start off with this: Southern Miss (10-2) will play undefeated Houston Saturday morning for the Conference USA championship. Should the Golden Eagles win, they’ll get a really nice trophy but it will cost the school more than half a million dollars. That’s right. It would knock Houston out of a BCS bowl and cost USM its share of the league’s BCS split.
USM athletic director Richard Giannini, who fights an annual battle to balance the budget, confirmed that fact of C-USA life Monday afternoon, but when asked about how much he could use the extra $550,000 or so, Giannini said, “To hell with the money. We want to win.”