LAFAYETTE, La. -- Maybe it was fitting that a few Southern
Mississippi players and coaches arrived a day later than the rest
for the New Orleans Bowl.
For the 2005 Golden Eagles, very little has gone according to
"It was difficult, but I'm proud to be here," coach Jeff Bower
said Sunday. "I'm proud of our players -- how they did, how they
finished up and got themselves bowl eligible and got another
opportunity to play another game."
Southern Mississippi will face Arkansas State (6-5) in the New
Orleans Bowl on Tuesday night, the conclusion of a season thrown
into turmoil by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Even now, the Golden
Eagles are still feeling the effects. Most team members arrived in
Lafayette on Saturday, but some remained on campus an extra day --
in part because of recruiting visits rescheduled after the storms.
And Southern Mississippi's bowl? It had to change homes because
of Katrina. The New Orleans Bowl was moved to Lafayette this year,
making it an appropriate match for the Golden Eagles after their
crazy regular season.
"There's been a lot of adjustments in schedules and in plans,"
Bower said Sunday. "Obviously they did a great job, and Lafayette
really helped out in hosting the bowl here. There was a lot of
similarities -- no doubt."
Southern Mississippi (6-5) is trying to win its second straight
New Orleans Bowl. The Golden Eagles beat North Texas 31-10 last
season. This year's bowl bid could have been more prestigious, but
Southern Mississippi lost four close games -- each by less than 10
Still, the Golden Eagles welcome any type of bowl this season.
"I've never been through one like it," Bower said. "I think
we made good adjustments and our players were resilient and handled
Southern Mississippi was supposed to open against Tulane on
Sept. 4, but the game was postponed after Hurricane Katrina knocked
out electricity in Hattiesburg, Miss., the Golden Eagles' home.
The team practiced at Memphis briefly before splitting its first
two games. Then, Hurricane Rita hit Texas, and Southern
Mississippi's Sept. 24 game at Houston was postponed.
"We've overcome a lot of adversity," quarterback Dustin Almond
said. "We look at it as a challenge, not as a setback."
After the second postponement, Southern Mississippi played its
final nine regular-season games in nine weeks -- including a stretch
of three road games in 12 days. The Golden Eagles became bowl
eligible with a 26-7 win in the regular-season finale, a makeup of
the postponed opener against Tulane.
Now, Southern Mississippi can look back on a difficult season
and focus on the accomplishments -- a 5-3 record in Conference USA
and a fourth straight bowl appearance. The Golden Eagles opened as
a 17½-point favorite over Arkansas State, which shared the Sun Belt
Conference championship with Louisiana-Monroe and
"I think we did a pretty good job of overcoming adversity,"
Southern Mississippi defensive back Trevis Coley said. "The season
didn't go quite as well as we wanted it to go. But hey, we're here
at a bowl game, and that's one of our goals."