The seniors on the Southern Miss football team experienced a high point last season, but they also went through some lows.
For fifth-year seniors who came aboard for the 2012 season, the Golden Eagles went 0-12 in 2012, 1-11 in 2013, 3-9 in 2014, 9-5 and were Conference USA West Division champions in 2015, and 5-6 this season, with one game to go.
Senior punter Tyler Sarrazin, in his fourth year at Southern Miss, admitted that losing is not nearly as fun as winning.
“From 1-11 to 9-3 (in the regular season) last year, a bowl game, five wins in a row, you’re so happy to be here,” said Sarrazin, who has earned his fourth letter this year.
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And while this season has not gone as planned with five losses in the last six games, there is still a chance to become bowl-eligible, but only if the Eagles defeat Louisiana Tech in their final regular-season game at 3 p.m. Friday at M.M. Roberts Stadium.
“Expectations were high,” Sarrazin said. “But I can honestly say, ‘Everybody is still fighting. We’re all trying.’”
Four USM players from the state’s southernmost six counties will be playing their final games as seniors Friday: redshirt senior receiver Jarell Aaron (Poplarville), redshirt senior offensive lineman Brandon Farmer (Harrison Central), redshirt senior defensive lineman Jerry McCorvey (Vancleave) and redshirt senior kicker Stephen Brauchle (Gulfport).
Last week’s 29-23 loss to North Texas, a sub-.500 team, was especially grating on the players. Louisiana Tech is 8-3 and already has clinched C-USA’s West Division title this season, so the North Texas game was USM’s best chance to get to a bowl.
“We let it slip away,” said Sarrazin, who has averaged 44.3 yards per punt this season, which leads Conference USA and is 19th in the nation. “We were battling hard. Both teams played hard. After winning last season, it was even more bitter.”
Jay Hopson is in his first season as Southern Miss head coach, but he knows the trials the 20 USM seniors who will be honored during Senior Day ceremonies on Friday have been through.
“They’re a bunch of young men that have fought hard for Southern Miss,” Hopson said. “They have fought through so many adversities. They have had a lot of highs and lows but they are a group that has fought and a group that I’m proud to coach. They’re a joy to be around. They come out every work day and work hard.
“They’re a bunch of guys that wore the black and gold and represented Southern Miss admirably. They are special, special guys.”
Sarrazin, an exercise science major who has been on the Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll for three years, will never forget losing.
“It’s awful,” he said. “You know even if you’re down 20 points that you can battle back, knowing that it’s possible, we’ll always have faith.
“We’re a family. I’m proud to be a Golden Eagle.”
Who: Southern Miss vs. La. Tech
When: 3 p.m., Saturday
Where: Roberts Stadium, Hattiesburg
Radio: 104.9 FM