Southern Miss gears up for 34th “Battle for the Bell”

Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 11:27 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Tulane was favored by 11.5 points over Southern Miss last season before the Golden Eagles stormed into Yulman Stadium and shocked the Green Wave, walking away with a 27-24 win and the coveted “Bell.”

The 34th meeting between the two schools on Saturday at 3 p.m. sees Tulane as the favorite again – this time by 12.5 points on USM’s home turf at “The Rock.”

Golden Eagle head coach Will Hall, who spent two years in New Orleans as Willie Fritz’s offensive coordinator, has the utmost respect for the Green Wave.

“Just a really good football team,” Hall said. “I think they’re a more confident football team than what they were this time last year. They were still building last year, now they’re a proven commodity – best group of five program in America.”

Tulane could be without its starting quarterback and NFL prospect Michael Pratt for a second straight week after he suffered a knee injury in the Wave’s season-opener.

Sophomore Kai Horton passed for 231 yards, a touchdown and an interception in a 37-20 loss to Ole Miss.

Regardless of who’s commanding the offense, Saturday marks another challenge for the Southern Miss secondary.

A talented, but unproven group headed into the fall, the USM cornerbacks held their own against No. 4 Florida State’s big, physical receivers in Saturday’s 66-13 loss.

The Golden Eagles forced seven pass break-ups, not allowing preseason All-ACC wideout Johnny Wilson to haul in a single catch.

“The motto of last week was: People only respect two things and that’s money and violence,” said USM junior cornerback Brendan Toles. “And we couldn’t buy our way out of that one. So, we just had to play physical with the receivers and do what we had to do.”

“We knew we had to play well at the line of scrimmage and be physical at the line of scrimmage,” said USM cornerbacks coach Dwike Wilson. “And we knew we had to be very physical at the top of the route. You know we have a saying here we use, ‘It’s okay for him to catch the ball, he just can’t keep it.’ So those guys went up and caught the ball and we went up there and went through it and got the ball out on the way down.”

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