Southern Miss

Southern Miss aims to end Florida State’s 4-decade run in Independence Bowl

Southern Miss coach Jay Hopson has hired a new offensive coordinator for the 2019 season.
Southern Miss coach Jay Hopson has hired a new offensive coordinator for the 2019 season. Special to the Sun Herald

The Florida State football program has produced teams with winning records for 40 consecutive seasons.

In Wednesday’s Independence Bowl vs. Southern Miss, the Seminoles (6-6) will look to make it No. 41 under interim head coach Odell Haggins.

Florida State is a 16 1/2-point favorite to improve to 7-6 when the two teams kick it off at 12:30 p.m. at Independence Stadium.

Haggins didn’t come across as a man overly concerned with the FSU record book during Tuesday’s press conference.

“This game means a lot for the players, means a lot for the university and also myself,” Haggins said. “You just said something about winning streaks. I haven’t even thought about it. My main concern has been about these guys right here, the whole team. They’ll tell you that. We’ve practiced well for 11 practices, we’ve got one more. We’re going to go out and give it all we’ve got, I’ll tell you that.”

Haggins was elevated to interim head coach when Jimbo Fisher left for Texas A&M prior to the regular season finale.

Willie Taggart was hired away from Oregon to take over as the FSU head coach. He will be on hand to watch Wednesday’s game, but he won’t be coaching.

It’s unclear whether Haggins will remain a member of the FSU staff after Wednesday’s game.

If USM manages to win Wednesday, it will have the right to say it put an end to the nation’s longest active run of winning seasons in FBS.

While FSU has dealt with a great deal of distractions over the last month, USM head coach Jay Hopson dismissed the idea Wednesday that the Seminoles are at a major disadvantage.

“They won their last three ball games, a very convincing win over Florida,” Hopson said. “And again, a lot of those losses in the regular season were close, tough, hard fought losses against some really good football teams. We expect their A-game. We know they’re fired up and excited to be here. We know, again, every team has different little battles and adversities. You know they’ve had the coaching change but, in some regard, they get to stay in and prepare.

“A lot of times our coaches in December are out recruiting and getting ready for December 20th signing day. So, both teams have to overcome different obstacles. We understand they’re ready to go.”

Bad memories?

Haggins was a member of the Florida State team that faced Southern Miss during the 1989 season in Jacksonville, Florida, but he wasn’t interested in discussing that contest during Tuesday’s press conference.

When the topic was broached early in the press conference, Haggins was ready to move on to the next question.

“Yeah, I played on (the team), but we’re talking about now,” he said. “We’re talking about the game tomorrow. I’m not concerned about that game.”

The game is unlikely conjure great memories for Haggins or anyone else on that Florida State football team. USM won 30-26 on Sept. 2, 1989, with junior quarterback Brett Favre leading the way.

The 1989 campaign was the senior season for Haggins, who was a standout defensive lineman. He played three years in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers and the Buffalo Bills.

Tall odds

USM is no stranger to being the underdog against major programs, consistently playing teams like Alabama, Nebraska and Auburn on the road.

If USM pulls off the upset Wednesday, it will be another nice notch on the belt.

“There is a tradition and a heritage at Southern Miss,” Hopson said. “It’s something we talk about, and it’s something you know when you sign on at Southern Miss. We understand that, and our guys have a great understanding of our history. Southern Miss is about playing tough, physical football, and we’re going to do exactly that.”

Game plan

Who: Southern Miss vs. Florida State

When: 12:30 p.m., Wednesday

Where: Shreveport, La.