Khyri Thornton was named a finalist for the Conerly Award
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - On a cold and rainy afternoon, the University of Southern Mississippi football team returned to the practice field to prepare for its final game of the 2013 season. The Golden Eagles travel to Birmingham, Ala., for a game with UAB on Saturday afternoon. Kickoff against the Blazers is slated for 12:00 p.m.
Players wore shorts and helmets as they returned to the field after a day off on Monday. The practice was short, but effective according to head coach Todd Monken.
"Everything you do, you are building to be special," Monken said. "I don't care what role you have on our team, you have to embrace your role and work every day to be special. It is hard to be special. It is easy to be average."
Southern Miss and UAB will meet for the 14th time in football and have played every year since the series began during the 2000 campaign. Southern Miss leads the series 9-4. After winning the first nine games of the series, Southern Miss has dropped the last four contests to the Blazers.
"We look forward to going back on the road at UAB to play a team that's pretty similar to us," Monken said. "(Head coach Garrick) McGee has done a heck of a job trying to change the culture there and recruit his kind of players... They've done a really good job offensively. They do a number of things well. Defensively, they've had to make a change through the year but lately they've made a decision they want to get up and challenge you a little bit more on the perimeter, which has helped them."
"They have a great coaching staff," Monken continued. "They are in the same boat that we are, scrambling to get wins. I anticipate a good game this week."
Eight of the 13 games have been decided by seven or less points with the Golden Eagles posting a 6-2 record in those games. Two games have been decided in overtime including the series opener in 2000, a 33-30 USM double-overtime victory and a 50-49 decision for the Blazers in Hattiesburg in 2010 which was also decided in a pair of extra periods.
The Golden Eagles have posted a 7-15-1 record all-time at historic Legion Field, including a 5-2 mark against UAB, a 2-11-1 record versus Alabama and 0-1 marks against both Cincinnati and North Carolina State.
The program has played in two bowl games at historic Legion Field, dropping a 31-27 decision to NC State in the final All-American Bowl in what was Brett Favre's final game as a Golden Eagle and the first game for Jeff Bower as head coach. Ironically, Bower coached his final game there in the 2007 Papajohns.com Bowl, in which the Golden Eagles lost to Cincinnati 31-21 on Dec. 22.
In addition to the game with UAB, it was announced on Monday that senior defensive lineman Khyri Thornton was named one of 10 finalists for the C Spire Conerly Award for the most outstanding collegiate football player in the state of Mississippi. Thornton joined Mike Barthelemy (Millsaps), Avery Boykin (Mississippi Valley State), Matt Hall (Belhaven), Ricky Hunt (Delta State), Gabe Jackson (Mississippi State), Clayton Moore (Jackson State), Jonathan Redd (Mississippi College), Arnold Walker (Alcorn State) and Bo Wallace (Ole Miss).
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