Southern Miss

Southern Miss’ Jay Hopson happy to be bowling in New Orleans

Southern Miss running back Ito Smith tries for a first down against Charlotte at M. M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg on Nov. 5.
Southern Miss running back Ito Smith tries for a first down against Charlotte at M. M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg on Nov. 5. ttisbell@sunherald.com

HATTIESBURG — Once upon a time, in the year 2009, there was discontent among Southern Miss football fans about going to the New Orleans Bowl.

What’s wrong with going to a game in New Orleans, it being a tourism city, with plenty of parties and lots of things to do, you ask?

Mostly, it was because the Golden Eagles had played in the 2004 New Orleans Bowl, the 2005 New Orleans Bowl, the 2008 New Orleans Bowl and then the 2009 New Orleans Bowl.

They wanted a bowl, but they wanted a different bowl.

Then came 2011, and Southern Miss had a really good team, and fans wanted to see their Eagles one more time. Most of them did, on TV only, as USM went to the Hawaii Bowl. There was unhappiness in the minds of many fans.

Then came a few seasons of not so memorable football — think 0-12 and 1-11 — so when Southern Miss went to the Heart of Dallas Bowl last year, that was great.

And now, with the last New Orleans Bowl a distant memory, Southern Miss will do it again, this time at 8 p.m. Dec. 17 in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

But this time, everybody is happy. New Orleans seems a perfect fit. The opponent, Louisiana-Lafayette, seems a perfect opponent. The date, eight days before Christmas, seems a perfect date.

“Toward the end (of the bowl bid process), that’s what we were hoping for,” USM coach Jay Hopson said Monday. “It’s a great spot for us and our fans. I could be wrong, but I think it’s going to be one of the most attended games this year.”

The Golden Eagles finished the regular season 6-6 and had to knock off Conference USA West Division champion Louisiana Tech in the final game to become bowl eligible with six wins. But they did, then they waited 10 days before learning of their bowl destination. Their coveted bowl destination.

“We have a chance to have a great crowd,” Hopson said. “It has got the makings of one of the bigger bowl games in the country. New Orleans is New Orleans and it’s a town that everyone loves. It’s a great sports city. It’s a great bowl venue. I think our kids are all excited and I know it’s a good bowl for ours fans and that’s important for us.”

Southern Miss already has begun practicing for the game.

“We practiced Friday and Saturday to get them going,” Hopson said. “We didn’t give them a party. Practice is important, but we also have to recruit.

“Next week is a game week.”

Hopson said that backup quarterback Parker Adamson, after injuring a leg against Charlotte, is still nursing the injury but may be ready to play by game time.

As for the other players, they seem ready to play already, Hopson said.

“It’s always a positive to have a bowl game,” USM’s first-year coach said “It’s a reward for players.”

Hopson’s contract stipulates that he does not receive a bonus for being in a bowl game unless the team’s regular season record is above .500 and the team’s conference record is above .500.

Each ticket purchase through the Southern Miss Ticket Office (1-800-844-8425) benefits Southern Miss athletics and guarantees that they will sit with other Golden Eagle fans.

Tickets along the lower level sideline will be $60.Others will be $40. Student tickets are $20 and fans may make donations for tickets to be used by local members of the military, local charities, and underprivileged youth groups for $20.

The deadline to order New Orleans Bowl tickets and have them fulfilled in priority order is 5 p.m. Wednesday.

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