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Golden Eagle Great Moments against Louisville

Sept. 26, 2012

Hattiesburg, Miss. - Southern Miss and Louisville will meet for the 30th time in history this Saturday night at "The Rock" in a series that dates back to the 1949 season. The Golden Eagles have won 18 of the previous 29 meetings, while the Cardinals have won 10 and there has been one tie. Here in Hattiesburg, the Golden Eagles have won 11 of the previous 14 meetings, but the Cardinals have won the last two meetings between the two long-time rivals in Hattiesburg.

The series between the Golden Eagles and the Cardinals has been filled over the years with many exciting moments, strange plays and last-minute victories. Here is a look at what I think are the five most memorable victories by the Golden Eagles over the Cardinals.

'The Miracle of Louisville' - October 14, 1989 at Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Ky.
The Golden Eagles struck first that day as tailback Eddie Ray Jackson scored on a five-yard run. Louisville countered with a second quarter touchdown that evened the game at 7-7. Southern Miss regained the lead early in the third quarter on a 32-yard field goal by Chuck Davis, but Louisville matched it in the fourth quarter, once again tying the game. With 23 seconds remaining, the Cardinals had the ball and attempted a 43-yard field goal, but true freshman Vernard Collins blocked the kick, giving Southern Miss one last opportunity to win the game. As the clock ticked down the game's final seconds, quarterback Brett Favre rolled right and fought off Louisville defensive end Ted Washington before lofting a Hail Mary pass that was tipped by wide receiver Michael Jackson and caught behind the Louisville defenders by wide receiver Daryl Tillman, who raced into the end zone to give the Eagles the 16-10 win as time expired.

According to Golden Eagle coach Jeff Bower, the play worked exactly as it has been designed: "We put Alfred Williams, Michael Jackson and Tony Smith on the left side and Tillman by himself on the right. Michael is supposed to tip the ball up and hopefully one of our guys will catch it. Brett is supposed to spend a little time back there and throw it. He has to hesitate a little and throw it high."

'Mills Kills' - November 20, 1999 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Ky.
In a showdown for the Conference USA championship and a berth in the AXA liberty Bowl, Louisville quarterback Chris Redman kept the Golden Eagles on their heels throughout the first half, throwing for 278 yards and a pair of touchdowns to guide Louisville to a 24-17 lead. The Golden Eagle defense settled down in the second half, and Southern Miss outscored Louisville 13-3 after the break to take a 30-27 win.

It was a trick play that kept the Golden Eagles alive with them staring down a fourth-and-five from the Louisville 37-yard line. As Jamie Purser set up to punt, wide receiver Shawn Mills stood with his back to the ball near the Southern Miss sidelines, where coach Jeff Bower appeared to be yelling at the player. In actuality, Mills was carefully positioned on the line of scrimmage, and he took off downfield when Bower told the receiver to go at the snap of the ball. Purser threw the ball 26 yards to Mills for the first down, and three plays later Brant Hanna converted on his third field goal of the game, a 27-yarder with 1:07 remaining, to give Southern Miss the win. After surrendering 344 yards during the first half, the Golden Eagle defense forced a fumble and limited Louisville to eight yards rushing and 67 yards passing after halftime.

'The Moon Over Hattiesburg' - September 29, 1990 at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg, Miss.
In one of the weirdest games in the series, the Golden Eagles scored 22 points in the game's first 5:51 while running just two plays from scrimmage. Tony Smith returned a Cardinal punt 45-yards for a touchdown barely a minute into the game, and the Eagles added the two-point conversion for an 8-0 advantage. Running back Roland Johnson rumbled 47 yards for a touchdown on the Golden Eagles' second offensive snap of the night, and then safety Kerry Valrie scooped up a Louisville fumble and returned the ball 42 yards for a touchdown to give Southern Miss the 22-point lead with just over nine minutes left in the first quarter.

The Golden Eagles went on to win the game 25-13. After the game Louisville coach Howard Schnellenberger, who had been burned several times over the years by miraculous Golden Eagle plays, credited the USM win to the moon over Hattiesburg.

"It was a game of big plays," an elated Curley Hallman, head coach of the Golden Eagles shouted after the game. "I am very excited for our team, coaches and fans. This was an exciting game. Our crowd was really into the game."

'Coggin Sets Record and Golden Eagles Win on Thanksgiving Day' - November 24, 1949 at Faulkner Field in Hattiesburg, Miss.
Coach Thad "Pie" Vann's first season as Southern's head coach ends in a positive manner as what was then known as Mississippi Southern College defeated Louisville, 26-21, on Thanksgiving Day. Most of the crowd had come to see end Cliff Coggin break the national record for catches in a season, and they were not disappointed, as he caught three passes to surpass the record of Ole Miss end Barney Poole, who has caught 52 in 1947.

In the words of the Hattiesburg American, "Shackled for almost three full quarters Thursday night by a dogged defense which bumped him at every opportunity and had three men following him each time he crossed the line of scrimmage, Cliff hit his peak in the fourth quarter. Twice he made sensational catches of long touchdown passes to first tie and then break the national reception record and to give the Southerners their margin of victory."

Coggin had 88 receiving yards that night as well, giving him an average of 108.7 yards per game, far higher than Arizona's Hank Stanton's 1941 national record of 82.0-yards per game. Coggin went on to play in the Senior Bowl and the Blue-Gray All-Star Classic and was selected in the seventh round of the NFL draft by the Los Angeles Rams.

'Favre and Golden Eagle Roll to Victory' - October 3, 1987 at Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, Ky.
The Golden Eagles rolled up 519 yards of total offense, including 402 yards on the ground, en route to a 65-6 pasting of the Cardinals, one of the biggest margins of victory in USM history. Southern Miss scored in the opening quarter on tight end Preston Hansford's five-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brett Favre, Eric Redd's return of a blocked punt for a touchdown, Shelton Gandy's three-yard scoring run and Chris Seroka's 23-yard field goal. Favre and wide receiver Chris McGee combined for 22- and 38-yard touchdown passes in the second quarter to stake Southern Miss to a 37-0 halftime advantage.

The Golden Eagles added four more touchdowns in the third quarter-a one-yard run by Gandy; a 22-yard run by Craig Shackelford; another blocked punt returned for a touchdown, this time by John Baylor; and a 20-yard run by tailback Ricky Bradley.

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