Battle for the Bell — Through the years

Battle for the Bell — Through the years

FORT WORTH, Texas (WDAM) - Southern Miss and Tulane are set to renew the Battle for the Bell rivalry on Saturday in the Armed Forces Bowl. The two programs last met on the gridiron in 2010, but there have been some unforgettable games in the series.

“It was one of the hardest hitting games that you’d ever play in,” said former Southern Miss quarterback Reggie Collier (1979-82).

“A hard-fought game each and every time we stepped on the football field and it’s just something you always remember,” said former Southern Miss quarterback Lee Roberts (1995-98).

It’s hard not to look back on all the major moments in a series with 30 scintillating chapters.

So, let’s rewind it all the way back to the first meeting, 1979 – USM jumped out to a 13-0 lead over Tulane, but the Green Wave stormed right back.

“It was back and forth, back and forth,” Collier said.

It came down to a field goal attempt for the Golden Eagles that freshman Collier could have sworn was good.

“How it is with field goals, it just went right over the upright,” Collier said. “And I was holding. They said it was no good.”

The pendulum swung Southern’s way the next year – a controversial two-point conversion sealed victory for the Eagles and the rivalry was cooking.

“It was just like throwing gas on the fire,” Collier said. “The next thing you know, you got a heated rivalry going on.”

Those flames often trickled to the sidelines. Former head coach Jim Carmody (1982-87) remembers USM’s mascot getting caught in the crossfire.

“Some students of Tulane came out and beat up on our mascot,” Carmody said. “He was the mascot of the year nationally, as I recall. And they got real upset, our players did. We were coming out of the tunnel there and they said, ‘Coach, look what they’re doing to our mascot. We’re going to get them this second half.’ And we did.”

A Tulane graduate, Carmody coached in eight of these ball games – none more impactful to Southern Miss and the sport of football than 1987’s matchup.

“I turned around from the other field [at practice] and I heard a wishing sound,” Carmody said. “I said, ‘What in the world was that?’ I turned around and it was Favre. And I said, ‘Wow, we’ve got to play this guy pretty soon.”

Carmody didn’t realize just how soon. Trailing Tulane in the second half of the second game of 1987, in went 17-year-old Brett Favre.

“We weren’t moving the ball at all,” Carmody said. “Just about five minutes left in the third quarter, I put Brett in and of course he won the game.”

A couple of touchdown tosses from Favre and 167 yards rushing by Shelton Gandy carried the Eagles to a 31-24 win.

USM did not lose to Tulane in Favre’s four seasons – beginning a string of 13 wins to just three losses under head coach Jeff Bower (1991-2007).

The turn of the century brought about the “Bell” – the two schools battled for the trophy for the first time in 1999.

“The rivalry went back and forth and it always came down to the wire,” Roberts said.

The 2000s were highlighted by USM’s 43-6 domination in 2009. The Eagles allowed just 54 rushing yards and turned a fumble and field goal block into touchdowns.

Thirty meetings have seen it all – the legendary performances, the crushing hits and wire-to-wire finishes.

The New Year brings with it new chapters to be written in the “Battle for the Bell.”

“Just exciting for the football players, the coaches and really, more importantly, the fans,” Roberts said. “Those that remembered that rivalry.”

“These are the teams and the games that people can relate to, who’ve been fans for 20 years, 30 years or even longer than that,” Collier said.

“It’s been talked about a good bit,” said USM junior quarterback Jack Abraham. “I’ve seen all the battle for the bell and all that stuff.”

“Just knowing it’s a rivalry so you know there’s going to be a little edge between both sides,” said USM senior defensive back D.Q. Thomas. “I’m looking forward to it.”

“We’re going over to handle business and keep the bell where it belongs,” said USM sophomore center Trace Clopton.

Saturday’s Armed Forces Bowl featuring Southern Mis (7-5) and Tulane (6-6) will be the 31st meeting between the two schools and the first outside of Hattiesburg or New Orleans.

The Golden Eagles lead the all-time series 23-7 and have captured the last six contests. Here’s a breakdown of the 30-game rivalry:

  • 10/13/79 – USM (19) Tulane (20) – Hattiesburg, Miss.
  • 9/6/80 – USM (17) Tulane (14) – New Orleans, La.
  • 9/19/81 – USM (21) Tulane (3) – Hattiesburg, Miss.
  • 10/16/82 – USM (22) Tulane (10) – New Orleans, La.
  • 10/22/83 – USM (7) Tulane (14) – Hattiesburg, Miss.
  • 10/13/84 – USM (7) Tulane (35) – New Orleans, La.
  • 11/23/85 – USM (24) Tulane (6) – Hattiesburg, Miss.
  • 10/25/86 – USM (20) Tulane (35) – New Orleans, La.
  • 9/19/87 – USM (31) Tulane (24) – Hattiesburg, Miss.
  • 10/8/88 – USM (38) Tulane (13) – New Orleans, La.
  • 10/7/89 – USM (30) Tulane (21) – Hattiesburg, Miss.
  • 10/13/90 – USM (20) Tulane (14) – New Orleans, La.
  • 10/19/91 – USM (47) Tulane (14) – Hattiesburg, Miss.
  • 10/15/92 – USM (17) Tulane (7) – New Orleans, La.
  • 11/6/93 – USM (15) Tulane (17) – Hattiesburg, Miss.
  • 9/3/94 – USM (25) Tulane (10) – New Orleans, La.
  • 9/30/95 – USM (45) Tulane (0) – Hattiesburg, Miss.
  • 10/26/96 – USM (31) Tulane (28) – New Orleans, La.
  • 10/25/97 – USM (34) Tulane (13) – Hattiesburg, Miss.
  • 10/3/98 – USM (7) Tulane (21) – New Orleans, La.
  • 9/6/99 – USM (48) Tulane (14) – Hattiesburg, Miss.
  • 10/14/00 – USM (56) Tulane (24) – New Orleans, La.
  • 11/17/01 – USM (59) Tulane (6) – Hattiesburg, Miss.
  • 11/23/02 – USM (10) Tulane (31) – New Orleans, La.
  • 11/15/03 – USM (28) Tulane (14) – Hattiesburg, Miss.
  • 9/25/04 – USM (32) Tulane (14) – New Orleans, La.
  • 11/26/05 – USM (26) Tulane (7) – Hattiesburg, Miss.
  • 11/11/06 – USM (31) Tulane (3) – New Orleans, La.
  • 10/24/09 – USM (43) Tulane (6) – Hattiesburg, Miss.
  • 11/6/10 – USM (46) Tulane (30) – New Orleans, La.

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