Eagle Seniors Will Be Missed

Eagle Seniors Will Be Missed

What a difference a week makes. Seven days ago Southern Miss was ranked No. 20 in the BCS and had a legitimate opportunity to play their way into the January 2 BCS Sugar Bowl. Last Thursday night's devastating 34-31 loss to UAB sent the Eagles soaring back to reality. Southern Miss has lost to underdogs before, but what makes the loss particularly frustrating is what was at stake.

In times such as these, it is easy to throw a fan pity party on the ails of being a Southern Miss supporter. However, the events that unfolded this past weekend around then nation in college football reminds us that disappointment is not limited to the Black and Gold Nation.

No. 2 Oklahoma State lost a chance to play for the national title by losing to perennial Big 12 bottom feeder Iowa State.

No. 7 Clemson was embarrassed in a defeat to N.C. State—a team that previously had just three wins versus FBS opponents.

And do not forget Boise State.

They could very well be sitting at No. 2 were it not for a missed field goal against TCU with under a minute to play.

The agony of defeat does not limit itself to particular fan bases.

Furthermore, is there honestly another C-USA school you would rather be rooting for? Yes, UAB has beaten us three straight years, but they could beat us another five straight and I would not envy their program.

Can you imagine the excitement of getting to cheer for the Green Wave each and every week?

Despite not winning a C-USA title since 2003, Southern Miss still as more titles (4) than any school (Louisville has 3), and twice as many as any school currently in C-USA (Houston, Central Florida, and East Carolina each have 2).

So, yes, the UAB loss is frustrating, but Southern Miss remains the premier football program in the conference and all of the preseason goals of a birth in the C-USA title game and Liberty Bowl bid are still alive.

These goals are still achievable due in large part to the 21 seniors that Southern Miss (9-2, 5-2) will honor in the final home game of their career against Memphis on Saturday in the Black and Blue Game. A win and the Eagles will play Houston or Tulsa for the C-USA title on Dec. 3.

This year's group of seniors is the first to play their entire football career at Southern Miss under Larry Fedora. It is a group that has led the way on offense, defense, and special teams this season.

Austin Davis will play his final home game as a Golden Eagle holding every significant Golden Eagle passing record, with the help of senior receivers Quentin Pierce, Kelvin Bolden, and Ryan Balentine.

Korey Williams, Terrance Pope, and Cordarro Law have led a rejuvenated defense that has made the difference between an average team and a good team this season. On special teams, Danny Hrapmann has proven to be one of the most reliable place kickers in Southern Miss history over the past two seasons.

In all, this senior class has accounted for an 31-19 overall record and 19-12 C-USA mark. They inherited a program with that had gone 14 seasons without a losing record. They have successfully extended that streak to 18.

Despite all of the success, one cannot help but wonder what could have been with this class. Of the 12 conference losses suffered by this group over the past four years, 11 have been by 7 points or less. The only loss by a larger margin was a 30-17 setback to UAB in 2009.

The remaining 11 losses have been by a total of 50 points—a margin of defeat by 4.5 points. The toughest season was 2010, when the Eagles lost 3 conference games by a combined 8 points. Take away or add one play in each of those 11 loses and this senior class would be graduating as the most successful in Southern Miss history—with at least a 42-8 overall record and 30-1 C-USA record.

However, speculation of what could have been serves little purpose other than creating regret.

The reality is that following the 2003 C-USA title Southern Miss fell to the middle of the pack in talent level in C-USA from 2004-2008. This senior class has helped Southern Miss return to the top of the conference pack in regard to the talent on campus and has made the step this season in making the plays necessary to win close games.

Yes, there is room for improvement, but this class has laid the foundation for putting the Golden Eagles back at the top of the conference.

A win in the next two games will give this class what they have coveted most, a C-USA title, and provide a fitting end to their significant achievements.

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