Top 5 Southern Miss season openers

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Sep 9, 2017; Hattiesburg, MS, USA; in the first quarter at M. M. Roberts Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
  1. 2004 Southern Miss 21 at Nebraska 17

Southern Miss opened the season with a win in front over 77,000 fans at Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium.  The Golden Eagles forced five interceptions in Nebraska’s first home loss to a non-conference team since 1991.  Southern Miss was down 17-15 in the fourth quarter, but a 46-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dustin Almond to Marvin Young gave the Golden Eagles the lead.  Nebraska almost managed to stage a comeback, driving to the Southern Miss’ 12-yard line, but DeMarcus Barner forced a fumble that the Golden Eagles recovered to seal the win.

  1. 2001 Southern Miss 17 vs. Oklahoma State 9

The only home game on this list, the Golden Eagles spoiled future national championship winning head coach Les Miles’ debut with Oklahoma State, and Jeff Bower got his second consecutive win against his former team. It was Southern Miss’ Jeff Kelly’s 277 yards in the air that propelled the Golden Eagles to victory. Kelly’s lone touchdown pass in the first quarter occurred on a three-play drive, and running back Dwayne Woods’ touchdown in the second quarter gave Southern Miss all it needed for the win.

  1. 1980 Southern Miss 17 at Tulane 14

The history of this game goes back a year in 1979. That year was the first meeting between the two future rivals.  Southern Miss had a chance to win the 1979 contest with a game winning field goal, but the officials could not get set fast enough and controversially called a potential winning kick no good, which led to the Golden Eagles dropping the game 20-19.  The Golden Eagles opened the next season against the Green Wave in front a crowd of 44,000 in the Louisiana Superdome with the game televised on CBS. Led by quarterback Reggie Collier Southern Miss took a 14-0 lead. However, the Green Wave tied the game 14-14 in the second half, but an interception by Chuck Cook set up a game winning field goal, allowing the Golden Eagles to avenge the loss from the year prior.  

  1. 2016 Southern Miss 44 at Kentucky 35

The Jay Hopson era started with not only of the wildest games in school history but also Southern Miss’ first win over a SEC school for the first time since 2000.  Entering a much-anticipated season, Southern Miss jumped out to a 7-0 lead with a blocked punt asserting the early dominance. The script changed on the Golden Eagles as Kentucky forced three interceptions and blown coverages allowed for the Wildcats’ quarterback to throw for over 300 yards and four touchdowns and take a 35-10 lead near the end of the second quarter.  Southern Miss staged a large comeback though, posting 34-unanswered points, kicked off by a 71-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Nick Mullens with 14 seconds left in the first half. Mullens opened the second half with another touchdown drive as he scored on one-yard touchdown quarterback keeper. A fumble recovery by Xavier Thigpen set the Eagle’s up to score of a touchdown pass by Mullens.  After a quick stop by the Southern Miss defense, Mullens took the lead back with a touchdown run which ultimately set up the win. Mullens threw for 258 yards and scored four touchdowns in the comeback win.

  1. 1989 Southern Miss 30 vs. No. 6 Florida State 26

This game is probably one of the most talked about games in Southern Miss history.  It was not only the biggest upset in Southern Miss history, but it also cemented future NFL hall of famer Brett Favre’s legacy into Southern Miss’ history books. Originally slated as a home game, the game was played in Jacksonville as the city offered Southern Miss $500,000 to play the game at the Gator Bowl despite Southern Miss entering the game as a 22-point underdog.  The Seminoles jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead, but Southern Miss tied the game at 10-10, setting up the back-and-forth game. The Golden Eagles eventually took a lead 17-10 with Favre throwing a four-yard touchdown pass to Alfred Williams. Florida State retook the lead 23-17, but a touchdown run by Eddie Ray Jackson allowed the Golden Eagles to take a slim 24-23 lead. The Seminoles took the lead with a field goal which set up one of the most legendary game winning drives in Southern Miss history.  With under seven minutes left in the game, Favre led the Golden Eagles on a game winning 58-yard drive throwing a touchdown pass with 23 seconds left. Favre shredded the Florida State defense, completing 21-of-39 passes for 282 yards and two touchdowns. It was the first time any team other than Miami had beaten Florida State in three years, and the game laid the foundation for the Gunslinger’s folklore.