Like many in the state of Mississippi, I am absolutely infatuated with Southern Miss football. Saturday at The Rock is one of the best highs I have ever encountered.
All throughout childhood, and into young adulthood, I could be found on the campus of Southern Miss any given Saturday. Many would call what I am plagued with an unhealthy obsession. This has proven to be a blessing as well as a curse (sometimes more one than the other).
Speaking of curses, I thought that, at one time, I was the victim of a very vicious one.
Up until the year 2012 (my freshman year at The University of Southern Mississippi), I regularly attended USM home football games with either my father or my friends. I had never consumed alcohol prior to the games.
The year is 2011. Many of Southern Miss’s fans are anticipating the onslaught of a triumphant season. All the pieces are there. A record-breaking quarterback returning for his senior season, offensive weapons galore, and a stout defense that could hang with the best of ‘em.
We were hopeful, excited, and anxious to get things underway. An opening win in a monsoon against a Louisiana Tech team who (as we didn’t suspect) would eventually become a conference foe. An early hiccup against Marshall swayed some hope, but we were still confident nonetheless. Following the 1-1 start, the Golden Eagles cruised to a 9-1 mark quickly boasting a crushing win over the Navy Midshipmen and a win over P5 adversary Virginia.
This is where everything changes. Southern Miss travels to Legion Field in Birmingham, AL and proceeds to lose all hope of a BCS bid by dropping a heartbreaker to UAB 34-31. While 9-2 is never a bad mark before the last week of the season, we could not help but be let down by this loss. As you probably know, the Golden Eagles win the remaining games including a conference championship win over #7 Houston and a Hawai’i Bowl Victory, finishing the season ranked #19 in the coaches’ poll. Not terribly shabby, but the UAB loss still stings, as the Southern Miss faithful still dream of what could have been.
So, here we go. August 2012, I’m a freshman at God’s University. I’m on top of the world. Coming off a 12-2 football season, there’s no reason for me to believe we’re not about to run through our schedule and go play in a BCS bowl. I could not be more excited for the season to get underway. I had no idea what kind of impact a simple coaching hire could make.
Well, the opener at Nebraska came and went. “Shit,” I thought. “We gotta get this together.” We all know what followed – a 0-12 mark and the clear winner of the “worst team in CFB” award.
Now that I was in college and pledging a fraternity, of course, I imbibed before games. That’s what the cool kids do. Wake up early and see how many empty Busch Light cans you can create before the Eagle Walk and subsequent kickoff.
It wasn’t until late into the 2013 season that I had an epiphany. It was actually my fault that we hadn’t won a game since the 2011 Hawaii bowl. I had been drinking prior to games, whereas I never did before the 2012 season. My drinking before the games is bad luck!!
I thought to myself, “So, how can I turn this around? I got it! I’ll stay sober for Saturday’s UAB game as I watch it on TV from my fraternity house.”
So, the day arrives. Saturday, November 30, 2013. I still have an awful taste in my mouth from the 2011 UAB game, and I would love nothing more than to beat them down at Legion Field.
As the game gets underway, I am getting weird looks from my friends, most asking; “Hey man, no beer?”
“Not today,” I said, “We’ve got to win this game.”
“Uhh, okay man”.
We then proceed to absolutely dismantle UAB in every phase of the game and my sober self is nearly brought to tears. I realize now, that it must be my fault that we have lost 23 games in a row. The curse, however, is now broken.
We all know that Southern Miss has risen from that slump and has moved on to better seasons, but I will never forget those times, and how I blamed them all on myself.
I am looking forward to Southern Miss and UAB reuniting on the gridiron, an event long overdue. Maybe I’ll have a beer this time?