Whatever it was that happened to Southern Miss in a 31-10
loss at Tulane last week, you can probably count on the Golden Eagles having
it fixed for a 3 p.m. game on Saturday at M.M. Roberts Stadium — also known
as The Rock — against East Carolina.
Coach Jeff Bower’s program always seems to play the Pirates
tough and holds a 4-1 lead in the series since the old foes began meeting in
“We were unemotional, no enthusiasm, didn’t play hard or
with the effort we needed to play with,” said Bower after the loss to the
Green Wave — a loss that knocked Southern Miss to 4-3 in C-USA play and
likely out of league championship contention.
But Southern Miss, which is already bowl eligible at 6-5,
seems to have no trouble getting up for ECU. The Eagles lead the series
On the other hand, there is a basis for optimism for the
Pirates this week because the road team has fared better over the history of
the matchup. ECU is only 2-12 in games in Greenville with USM but is 5-8 in
games played in Hattiesburg.
The Golden Eagles can strengthen their bowl prospects while
ECU (4-6, 4-2 C-USA) needs a win to stay in contention for postseason
eligibility and a share of the league title after a 31-28 upset of then-No.
22 Tesas Christain in Greenville last week.
Pirates coach Steve Logan said the rewards that ECU has to
play for have not been discussed with the team.
“There’s just so much ifs, ands, and buts,” Logan said.
“Southern Miss speaks for itself. They, in fact, are better than Texas
Christian from the standpoint of keeping you out of the end zone. They’ve
got a better scoring average on defense.”
Southern Miss leads C-USA in points allowed per game at 16.7
while TCU is averaging 18.7 points allowed. The Horned Frogs are first
nationally against the run, allowing just 56.2 yards per game, and are
second nationally in total defense at 247.0 yards per game.
“That speaks for itself,” Logan said of the prospect of
facing a Southern Miss defense that is also No. 21 nationally in turnover
margin at a plus 0.64 per game. “I’m just trying to figure out a way to get
a first down.”
The problem for the Golden Eagles, to an extent, has been
point production. They are eighth in the 10-team league in scoring average
at 22.5 per game.
Southern Miss looks to regroup this week while the Pirates
seek to continue the momentum of last week’s win over the Horned Frogs.
“I think East Carolina was a little surprising in the win
over TCU,” Bower said. “That was another great example (of turnovers
affecting the outcome). TCU turns the ball over seven times. They almost
doubled (ECU’s) yardage and dominated the game. But an 81-yard fumble return
in the fourth quarter wins it for East Carolina. That’s another great
example of, if you don’t take care of the football and protect it and win
the turnover margin, it makes it awful tough on you.”
ECU is averaging 30.1 points per game, fourth in C-USA.
“East Carolina can move the ball on offense,” Bower said.
“They score a lot of points. They have a good, solid kicking game. They have
given up some yards on defense, but they are opportunistic. They created a
lot of turnovers last week and took advantage of that.”
One factor in Southern Miss’s success against the Pirates
may be that the Golden Eagles consider the Pirates a key rival.
“There have been some tough games,” Bower said. “There have
been some interesting plays and comebacks. That’s the great thing about
playing somebody year in and year out.
“But when you can do that, and especially now with them
being part of the league, it makes the game more interesting and you have an
opportunity to develop a tradition. The longer this league goes on, the more
you play teams year in and year out.
“I think you’re going to be able to develop rivalries with
other schools, such as we have with East Carolina.”
ECU best be prepared to match USM's emotion, especially with
the Golden Eagle seniors playing their final home game. If Bower says ECU is
a rival, the Pirates best be ready to play like one.
Southern Miss, or actually Mississippi Southern as it was
called at the time, tried to get into the Atlantic Coast Conference at the
ACC’s formation in 1953. Following is a United Press International report
from Saturday, Sept. 19 of that year:
“HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Mississippi Southern, an overgrown
teachers college, went shopping for a bowl bid and membership in either of
two major conferences today with the hide of Alabama’s red elephant as its
“But first a celebration was in order. The football team
came home this afternoon from its thundering 25-19 upset of Alabama to a
“It was disclosed officially that Mississippi Southern is
trying to get into the new Atlantic Coast Conference.”
The “Southerners,” coached by Thad “Pie” Vann, beat the
Parris Island Marines 40-0 after the season-opening win over the Crimson
Tide and went on to finish 9-2. They didn’t get into the ACC but they did
get invited to the Sun Bowl, losing 37-14 to Texas Western. The 1953
Mississippi Southern season also included a 21-0 homecoming win over Florida
Logan sent the scout team home for the Thanksgiving holiday
on Wednesday, leaving just the traveling squad for workouts in Greenville on
Thursday and Friday. The Pirates will leave late Friday afternoon for
Recruiting coordinator Terry Tilghman was in charge of
travel arrangements and came up with the Blue Parrot as a place to eat after
Logan balked at the Holiday Inn in Hattiesburg.
“When Bill Lewis was coach here he left about $3,000 worth
of food on the table at the Holiday Inn,” said Logan, who was an assistant
at the time. “They brought out some steaks and Bill said, ‘This isn’t fit to
eat. Let’s go.’ So he loaded up the bus and we went to Golden Corral. That
Southern Miss won 41-27 that year but Lewis returned in 1991
— Bower’s first season as head coach at Southern Miss — for a 48-20 win at
the Golden Eagles’ homecoming.
Southern Miss has already celebrated homecoming this year
with a 23-14 win over Cincinnati on Oct. 19, but Saturday against ECU will
be “Letterman’s Day.” One letterman the Pirates need to be aware of will be
on the field, Southern Miss senior running back Derrick Nix. Before he was
beset by a kidney ailment that caused him to miss the latter part of 2000
and all of last season, Nix (6-feet 2, 225 pounds) ran for 171 yards in
Greenville in 1999 in a 39-22 win over the Pirates. Nix ran 42 times that
game, one shy of the school record.
“He’s still very effective when he’s feeling good,” Logan
said of Nix.
The Pirates coach was hopeful that ECU junior nose guard
Damane Duckett (6-7, 300), who turned an ankle against TCU, would be
available this week against a Golden Eagles offensive front that averages
“We really need Damane this week,” Logan said.