Neither the Golden Eagles or the Panthers experienced the seasons they had imagined. Southern Miss lost three quarterbacks to injury, and in their most recent game, they rotated four quarterbacks that weren’t even listed at that position on the depth chart. Florida International entered this contest with one win and disgruntled head coach, Butch Davis, coaching in his final game while carrying accusations of a complacent and non-supportive athletic department. The game certainly did not garner national interest, but the passion was palpable as each team filed in to play their final battle of the season.
Pregame excitement surrounded the stadium with the Eagle Walk as fans gathered to welcome the team to the sounds of “Southern Miss To The Top!” Golden Eagle enthusiasts gathered at Spirit Park and tailgated around campus as anticipation rose for the game.
Thanksgiving weekend and a 2-9 record kept the usual crowd from packing The Rock. But, the intensity of the black and gold that entered the gates of M.M. Roberts Stadium filled the air with intimidation. Frank Gore, one of the many quarterbacks that rotated under snap last week, helped the Golden Eagles to surge ahead to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. While FIU would close the gap to 7, Southern Miss held off the Panthers to finish the final home game with a 37-17 victory.
FIU will certainly have some growing pains next season as they hope for a smooth administrative transition. As the Panthers and Golden Eagles exited the field, an honored tradition after every final game of the Southern Miss football season began – the playing of “Amazing Grace” by The Pride of Mississippi Marching Band. As fans gathered to take in the moment, a feeling grew that this Southern Miss team has a bright future ahead.