Tulane-Southern Miss football series worth maintaining
Let the Bell ring once again.
The “Battle for the Bell” is renewed this Saturday when Tulane hosts Southern Mississippi at 6 p.m. at Yulman Stadium.
The Bell Trophy will somehow appear in uptown New Orleans Saturday evening and Tulane has no plan to let it depart for Hattiesburg.
The rivalry is a great one.
Many of the games played between the two schools rink a bell in my ear and in my mind’s eye.
Two schools in close proximity, within two hours of each other, have always traveled well to the opponent’s lair. The game makes sense and is one which each school’s fan base enjoys.
There are ties that bind.
Tulane has 12 players from Mississippi on its roster.
Southern Miss has six players from Louisiana on its roster.
Golden Eagles head coach Will Hall spent two years on the staff at Tulane with Willie Fritz as offensive coordinator in 2019 and 2020.
The two teams have met twice since Fritz took over as head coach of the Green Wave seven years ago.
Tulane won both games, including a 30-13 win over the Golden Eagles in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas on January 4, 2020.
Then, in the 2020 season, the Green Wave went to “The Rock” and rocked Southern Miss 66-24 on September 26 of that year.
Prior to those meetings, the two rivals had not played since 2010.
Prior to the win in the Armed Forces Bowl, Southern Miss defeated Tulane six straight times.
Interestingly, the series began way back in 1920, with the Green Wave winning 19-0 at Hattiesburg.
After that, the two schools did not play again until 1979 and continued to play each other annually through 1995 as independents and then as members of Conference USA beginning in 1996 and continued playing each other annually through 2006.
Fortunately, the two rivals agreed to a four-year contract to play between this year and 2027 beginning Saturday night.
Overall, Southern Miss leads the series 23-9.
The series is full of memorable moments, contests and players.
One which I enjoyed being a part of was on October 3, 1998, when Tulane hosted Southern Miss and scored a 21-7 win in the Superdome.
In that game, Tulane quarterback Shaun King, who was inducted into the Allstate Sugar Bowl Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame this year, played with a fractured left wrist, displaying his toughness. He split time in the game with Jeff Curtis.
The Tulane defense came up huge, forcing six turnovers.
King played the final eight games with a soft cast on his wrist and led Tulane to an unbeaten season, including a Liberty Bowl win over BYU as the Green Wave finished seventh in the nation.
One of the most memorable games that went the way of Southern Miss was on September 19, 1987 when the Eagles rallied from two scores down behind the passing of a previously unknown quarterback named Brett Favre to beat the Green Wave 31-24.
In 1979, Tulane played at Southern Miss and it became an instant rivalry.
Long-time Green Wave radio color analyst Steve Barrios remembers it well.
“The Green Wave scored late to take a 20-19 lead.,” Barrios said. “Tulane kicked off and Southern Miss ran a trick play, throwing a lateral across the field on the ensuing kickoff and it turned into a big play into Green Wave territory but a penalty negated the play. The Golden Eagles still got a shot at a field goal on the final play but it drifted wide right.”
The rivalry was born.
Tulane went on to a 9-3 season and a Liberty Bowl appearance after defeating LSU 24-13.
The Golden Eagles (1-2) are coming off their first win of the season, a 64-10 thrashing of Northwestern State.
The Southern Miss offense has been solid, averaging 41 points per game.
The Green Wave (3-0) are coming off their biggest win in quite some time, a 17-10 upset victory at Kansas State.
The Tulane defense has improved dramatically from a year ago, allowing just 20 points total in three games.
Tulane is a two-touchdown favorite at home.
The trick for Fritz is to guard against a letdown after the huge win at Manhattan.
Tulane will honor its 1973 team which went 9-3, including a win over LSU and an Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl appearance.
Regardless of conference affiliation, these two fine institutions and great rivals should find a way to play annually, extending the current four-year deal.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…