HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Donning black and gold threads inspired by the 1997 Southern Miss uniforms, the Golden Eagles honored the team that ranked 19th in the nation 20 years ago.
The '97 USM football team that finished 9-3, captured the school's first outright Conference USA championship and defeated Pitt 41-7 in the Liberty Bowl was honored during the Eagles' loss to North Texas on Saturday.
USM's only three losses in '97 came to ranked SEC opponents Florida (No. 2 at the time), Alabama (No. 21 at the time) and Tennessee (No. 24 at the time).
However, the Golden Eagles knocked off their fair share of power-five programs during coach Jeff Bower's tenure (1990-2007) including wins over Auburn, LSU, Georgia and Alabama.
"I don't like for [them] to be called big schools," Bower said. "We can play with anybody. We won our share of marquee games. That's Southern Miss' style. We're a tough bunch here and we line up and play with anybody in the country."
"No matter where you go, the football field is 100 yards long," said former USM defensive end Adalius Thomas. "Fifty-three yards wide and if you can play, [NFL scouts] will find you. And I think that's been evident here. You've had great players come here. I think at Southern Miss you carry that chip that everybody overlooked you; the Alabama's, the Auburn's. You have that anywhere, anytime, any place mentality. It doesn't matter what school you went to, I'll still kick your - if you're here at Southern Miss. So, that's how we took it."