Golden Eagles in New Orleans

Published 6:00 am Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Southern Miss football team arrived in New Orleans Wednesdayafternoon and so did Troy State’s squad. They will enjoy theCrescent City food and nightlife, practice every day and preparefor Sunday night’s R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl in theLouisiana Superdome.

Coach Larry Fedora’s Southern Miss Golden Eagles (6-6) areheadquartered at the Hilton Riverside Hotel, adjacent to theMississippi River. Coach Larry Blakeney’s Troy State team (8-4) isexcited to be in a bowl, too. They are slight underdogs.

College football fans are hungry for more action. Bowl games arethe answer, starting this weekend. The postseason festivities won’tend until Jan. 8, 2009, when Florida (12-1) meets Oklahoma (12-1)in the BCS Championship Game in Miami, Fla. Kickoff is 7 p.m. onESPN.

Five bowl games are on tap this weekend. Saturday’s menuincludes the Eagle Bank Bowl from Washington D.C., featuring Navy(9-4) versus Wake Forest (7-5) with kickoff set for 10 a.m.Saturday on ESPN.

Other Saturday bowl games send Fresno State (7-5) againstColorado State (6-6) in the New Mexico Bowl at Albuquerque,starting at 1:30 p.m. on ESPN; South Florida (7-5) vs. Memphis(6-6) in the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Bowl at 5:30 p.m.; and BrighamYoung (10-2) vs. Arizona (7-5) in the Las Vegas Bowl at 7:30p.m.

Sunday night’s New Orleans Bowl will be watched intently after along day of NFL games. It should be an offensive showcase.

USA, also known as the University of South Alabama, is nostranger to the national sports scene. The Jaguars are respectedfor their baseball and basketball teams. Football is the latestaddition to the Mobile-based school that has an enrollment of14,000-plus.

Over 1,000 season tickets already have been sold for the 2009season. It will be a limited schedule, including six home games inLadd-Peeples Stadium, which has a seating capacity of40,000-plus.

Under the direction of former Alabama great Joey Jones,excitement is growing. Jones has assembled a staff of assistantcoaches and is busy recruiting players.

A 1989 Alabama graduate, Jones has returned to the Mobile areaafter starting the football program at Birmingham Southern.

Also on staff are Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator:Bill Clark (Jacksonville State ’90);
Offensive Coordinator: LesKoenning (Texas ’81);
Linebackers: Kurt Crain (Auburn’87)
;Defensive Backs: Duwan Walker (Troy ’96);Offensive Line(Guards and Centers): John Turner (Jacksonville State’88);
Offensive Line (Tackles and Tight Ends): Mitch Rodrigue(Nicholls State ’88); Wide Receivers: Dameyune Craig (Auburn ’02);
Recruiting Coordinator/Defensive Staff: Brian Turner (Troy’00);
Strength & Conditioning Coach: Chuck Dunn (Troy ’97).

Looking ahead, the Jaguars have a 2013 date at Tennessee. Theyalso will launch a 4-game series with Navy in 2013. They begin SunBelt Conference play in 2011.

USA will play its first full schedule in 2010.

Copiah-Lincoln Community College offensive lineman Chris Payneof Vicksburg is one USA’s latest signees.

The 2008 Ole Miss football campaign got even better Tuesday withthe announcement of the Associated Press All-American FootballTeam. Offensive lineman Michael Oher and defensive lineman PeriaJerry were named to the AP’s First Team.

This is the first time that two players from the sameMississippi school have both made the First Team. Oher (6-5, 318),from Memphis; and Jerry (6-2, 290), from Batesville; should make animpact in the NFL.

For the Ole Miss Rebels (8-4), their next impact will be in theCotton Bowl where they’ll tackle high-octane Texas Tech. The teamshave seen each other before in bowl games. They clashed in the 1998and the 1986 Independence Bowls. The Rebels won both encounterswith the Red Raiders, prevailing 35-18 in ’98 and 20-17 in ’86.

Texas Tech (11-1) has made a name for itself in recent years.Explosive, exciting and mind-boggling describe the Tech offense.The Raiders only had one loss this season, falling 65-21 to theOklahoma Sooners. Two weeks earlier, Tech had ambushed the TexasLonghorns 39-33 at Lubbock.

Merry Christmas to one and all. That special day is a week awayand it’s hectic shopping for all of those last-minute gifts.Remember, Jesus is the reason for the season. Christmas is a holyday, making it much more important than a holiday.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O. BOX551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mail sports@dailyleader.com