Southern Miss

Southern Miss to play Washington in Heart of Dallas Bowl

By PATRICK MAGEE

pmagee@sunherald.com

Twitter: @Patrick_Magee

TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALDSouthern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens looks for an open receiver as Old Dominion's Scott Wiggins applies pressure, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALDSouthern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens looks for an open receiver as Old Dominion's Scott Wiggins applies pressure, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015. SUN HERALD

The Southern Miss football team will play its 2015 bowl game at historic Cotton Bowl stadium.

The Golden Eagles (9-4) will take on Washington (6-6) in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, which takes place at 1:20 p.m. on Dec. 26.

Bowl director Brant Ringler said USM became the preferred team to fulfill the bowl's Conference USA tie-in after the team's 58-24 victory at Louisiana Tech in the regular season finale.

“Once Southern Miss beat La. Tech, it became the clear choice to have USM come to our game,” Ringler said in a Sunday teleconference. “We watched how well they traveled to Louisiana Tech and to the conference championship game. Then you saw how ecstatic their fans were about coming here.”

Southern Miss lost 45-28 at Western Kentucky in the C-USA championship game on Saturday.

This will mark the first time the two schools have met on the football field, but Washington head coach Chris Petersen is familiar with the USM program after facing the Golden Eagles four times during his time as head coach at Boise State from 2006-13.

“They're a scary team,” Petersen said. “They're extremely athletic. We always had to play our best ball to win, that's for sure. The last time we played them was the first season Todd Monken took over as head coach. You could tell that when they implemented their system and the kids bought in, they were going to do really good things. Fast forward three years later and they're playing in a bowl game. Hats off to what they've done down there. I know how hard it is to turn a program around.”

Petersen is 4-0 against USM during his career, including a 60-7 win the last time Boise State and USM played in 2013 in Boise, Idaho.

Washington is 14-12 in Petersen's two seasons at Washington.

USM is in the postseason for the first time since 2011 when it beat Nevada, 24-17, in the Hawaii Bowl.

Washington earned bowl eligibility with a 45-10 win over rival Washington State in the regular season finale. The Huskies' biggest win of the season was a a 17-12 victory at USC on Oct. 9.

Monken said Sunday that USM had long targeted the Heart of Dallas Bowl as the preferred postseason destination this season.

“It's great for our fans and great for our program to get to go over there and play in a great bowl game against an unbelievable Washington team,” Monken said.

Monken has seen fan support grow in recent weeks, including a nice following over the last two games at Louisiana Tech and WKU. He believes that will continue in Dallas.

“We went to Louisiana Tech and I don't know how many fans we had,” Monken said. “The band was there. Our team fed off that. This past weekend (at WKU), we had unbelievable group that came over. We're expecting a big group in Dallas that will represent the black and gold.”

The Golden Eagles had several players on defense leave Saturday's game due to injuries, but Monken was upbeat Sunday about their status for the bowl game.

“We anticipate all those guys being ready to go,” he said.

Lindsey's future: Southern Miss offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey turned down an offer to become the head coach at Eastern Kentucky, multiple reports indicated Sunday.

Lindsey is in his second season as offensive coordinator at USM and the offense has thrived under his watch.

Lindsey is also the target of speculation involving the head coaching job at Louisiana-Monroe.

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