Golden Eagles billed as Giant Killers

by Mike Martinez
Sports Editor
Over the past few years, every time the Southern Miss Golden Eagles played against a top ten team, the media often referred to USM as "Giant Killers".

Well Saturday's game against Nebraska may have shown that the Golden Eagles can live up to that billing and maybe even more.

After USM's near victory against the sixth-ranked Cornhuskers, many people blamed the near loss on Nebraska having a bad game.

What most people forget to realize is that Nebraska's misfortune was not just by chance. The Golden Eagles walked into Memorial Stadium and just manhandled the Cornhuskers in all phases of its offense.

"Every time we play a top ranked team, all they talk about is how they had a bad game," Golden Eagle head coach Jeff Bower said. "But we are the ones that have something to do with that."

Lack of respect is something that the Golden Eagles have struggled to achieve in some seasons. Obviously their record hasn't been unblemished, but these past few USM football teams have been teams that rose to the occasion.

Now it seems like the Golden Eagles are primed and ready to receive some of the accolades that they have long since deserved.

Even though they lost last weekend, USM still moved up in the national football rankings. They bounced up from number 36 to number 29 in the Associated Press poll. They also moved up in standings of the USA Today/ESPN poll, climbing from number 31 to number 28.

However, last week an ESPN analyst wrote a column about what's hot and what's not in college football. He referred to the USM schedule as the work of a "knucklehead".

Well my argument is this.

How can the Golden Eagles gain any kind of respect from the national "knuckleheads" in the media unless they schedule high profile teams in their yearly contests?

Sure, they can play a weaker schedule, end up 12-0 on the season, and finish as the seventh ranked team in the nation. But, then they wouldn't want to come back the next season and get whooped on national television by a team that finished 7-5 the previous year, but played a harder schedule.

The Golden Eagles are some of the hardest working players in all of college football and also have a tremendously difficult defensive scheme to decipher.

My feeling is that they need to play high profile teams, and play them well to get any kind of recognition outside of the Conference USA. And that is what USM is doing.

The Golden Eagles practically shocked the football world only because they were doing something that is already evident, playing like the team that they are.

It would have been much sweeter if they did come out victorious after last week's game, but even in defeat, the Golden Eagles have much to be proud of.

Bower and company have consistently put out good teams and continually strive to achieve even more. Even though USM lost its three-year starter at quarterback, the offense is still putting up some big offensive numbers.

They are faced with another challenge this week as they travel to face the fifth ranked Texas A&M Aggies in College Station. As long as the team plays like they think they can, they shouldn't have any trouble.

"If we are made of what I think we are, we'll be ready to play." Bower said "We want to be a champion in this conference and that means we are going to have to keep playing well every game.

"The Golden Eagles are on their way as a dominant force in the conference as well as in the entire college scene.

Too bad the "knuckleheads" can't see what the rest of us already know.