Sept. 8, 2011
*Written by the 'Voice of the Golden Eagles' John CoxWhat a great win for the Golden Eagles last Saturday at The Rock against Louisiana Tech and hats off to the fans that were there watching the action in the wind and the driving rain of Tropical Storm Lee. The Golden Eagles found a way to overcome the elements and a very good Louisiana Tech team to take a 19-17 victory in the season opener.
While we sat there last Saturday afternoon watching it rain and preparing for our radio broadcast of the game, we reminisced about some of the other games Southern Miss had played in horrible weather conditions.
Two that we all remember occurred in back-to-back games in 1981. Those contests were against Memphis and North Texas.
At Memphis on October 17, 1981, at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, three inches of rain fell during the game with the Golden Eagles prevailing 10-0. The points came on a 24-yard touchdown run by quarterback Reggie Collier and a 33-yard field goal from Steve Clark. With the field a big mud puddle, the running game was at a premium and the Golden Eagles got a career high 175 yards rushing that night from Sammy Winder on 29 carries, while the "Nasty Bunch" defense limited the Tigers to just 178 yards.
It rained so hard that night at the Liberty Bowl that you could barely see the field and the player's jerseys were so covered with mud that it was hard to tell who was on which team. It was raining so hard that night that the water was running down the steps of the stadium towards the field and shooting out onto the sidelines like it was coming from a water hose.
The Golden Eagles, who had chartered a plane to Memphis, bused back to the airport after the game that night, only to find that the plane couldn't take off and so they had to find a hotel to stay at for the night. They finally found one but there weren't many rooms available and we stayed the night - about six to a room - and returned to Hattiesburg the following day.
After an open date the Eagles traveled to Denton, Texas, to play North Texas on October 31, only to find themselves in another driving rainstorm and a day full of tornado warnings for the entire game. Southern Miss defeated North Texas 22-0 as Collier scored the game's first two touchdowns on 54-yard and 13-yard runs, while Winder added a one-yard touchdown run. The Nasty Bunch trapped the North Texas quarterback in the end zone for the game's final points. The defense limited North Texas, coached by former Mississippi state coach Bob Tyler, to an average of only 0.9 yards per play and Winder piled up 140 yards on 26 carries for his second straight 100-yard rushing game.
There were times during the game when Collier ran and, when he got tackled, hydroplaned 10-to-15 yards down the field before coming to a stop. It was raining so hard that day that North Texas didn't even come out to warm up and stayed in the locker room until just before kick-off. The field was completely covered with water and it had nowhere to go. The grounds crew had put hay along the sidelines so that the players wouldn't have to stand in the mud, but the hay clogged the drains and both teams wound up standing in about a foot of water on the sidelines. The coaches' phones went out during the contest forcing the Southern Miss staff to leave the press box and come down to the sidelines. After the game, the Eagles went to the airport and sat for several hours on the runway waiting to fly back to Hattiesburg because of a tornado warning.
Then, who can ever forget the Ole Miss game on Sept. 24, 1977, in Oxford at what was then Hemingway Stadium. With a steady and driving rain falling on the artificial surface, the Eagles spotted the Rebels, riding high after the previous week's victory over Notre Dame, a 19-0 lead late in the first half before the USM defense completely stifled the Ole Miss attack.
Tailback Ben Garry got the Eagles on the board with a 26-yard touchdown run that cut the margin to 19-7 at halftime. Southern Miss took the second half kickoff and drove 69 yards in 15 plays, with Garry charging in from the one-yard line to make the score 19-13. Rebel quarterback Bobby Garner (whose son Bobby would letter for the Eagles from 1999-2002 as a tight end and quarterback) subsequently fumbled, and defensive end Bobby Smithart recovered at the Ole Miss 23-yard line, giving the Eagle a chance to take the lead. USM capitalized on the mistake as quarterback Jeff Hammond connected with fullback David Hosemann on a five-yard touchdown pass and Randy Boyette added the extra point to put the Eagles up 20-19. They would go on to win 27-19 that rainy day.
When the Golden Eagles arrived in Fort Collins, Colo., the day before their Nov. 9, 1985, tilt against Colorado State, they were greeted by warm temperatures, blue skies and sunshine, but the team awoke the next morning to near freezing temperatures and blowing snow. By game time, there was about 10 inches of snow on the ground and Colorado State officials had serious discussions about canceling the game. After falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter, the Golden Eagles tied the game before halftime on tailback Shelton Gandy's 18-yard run and quarterback Andrew Anderson's five-yard pass to wide receiver Chris McGee. After intermission, however, the Rams dominated, adding a touchdown in the third quarter and two more in the fourth quarter to take a 35-17 win.
There have been other games in which the Golden Eagles have played or been affected by adverse weather conditions, whether the effects of a hurricane, a driving rain and thunderstorm or snowy and icy conditions., but these are some of the games that stand out over the past 35 years or so.
One thing is for sure, though; that is last Saturday's season opening victory over Louisiana Tech will be one that we will always remember and it will be talked about for many years to come as another night the Golden Eagles played in horrible weather conditions. The night the Eagles defeated the elements, Tropical Storm Lee and Louisiana Tech.