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Sunday Morning Quarterback

Sunday Morning Quarterback

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

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This week, from the designated home of Texas A&M and Baseball (in no particular order), who steals a bit of SMQ's upcoming thunder with a sound analysis of the Heisman hopes of Mr. Young:

Q1. Why your school? Did you go to school there? Were you legacy, did you pick it for academics, for the football team, the party reputation?

Q2. Name a player or two who had "THE GAME" against your school. I'm talking about a guy who simply dominated your team and all you could do was tip your cap and say, "Wow."

Good questions.

Q1. Southern Miss was SMQ's school of choice out of laziness, essentially. It was the closest major school (tied, actually, by Tulane and South Alabama, but these were out of state and never considered), the alma mater of SMQ's dad, grandmother and grandfather, the school with athletic teams he'd always grown up rooting for. But there wasn't a fanaticism about the university, or an immersion in its traditions. SMQ went to some games, more than any other school, but not enough to know the fight song, any of the cheers or other USM-specifics (in fact, the only cheer SMQ remembers from pre-college days was during a game - this was so long ago, and he was so young, the opponent doesn't even come to mind, nor the result - when a cheerleader with a megaphone, or the PA guy, or someone with the ability to broadcast to the entire crowd, chanted repeatedly, "Get the ball! Get the ball! Get the damn ball!" drawing furrowed brows from father of SMQ and other parents).

USM was more or less the default university, agreed upon without much thought or effort of any kind from anybody. Young SMQ probably could have gotten into most public schools anywhere in the country, but settled for, you know, whatever. And that's fine, for even though Southern Miss boasts a generally apathetic student body, SMQ eventually found himself very much a part of the school's culture and traditions, sports and otherwise, and is actually quite fond of the place. But, really, it was just there.

Q2. Dec. 4, 2004: In a hurricane make-up game, the 6-4 Eagles hosted fourth-ranked Cal, the highest ranked team ever to play in Hattiesburg, needing a big win to seal a BCS berth. And J.J. Arrington just blew up. USM's defense had struggled all year against good backs - notably Kenneth Darby and DeAngelo Williams, both of whom, if memory serves, finished with 199 yards rushing - but nothing like what happened with Arrington, who went for 261, by far the most ever allowed in school history. He absolutely could not be stopped; the defense had no chance. Every carry was a huge gash. Tackling the guy short of a first down was heroic. Statistically, Cal just dominated that game all the way around.

But what was most memorable about it was that USM was somehow, inexplicably, right in the mix - the Eagles scored a touchdown to pull within 17-16 with about three and a half minutes to go. And then...*sigh*...Cal blocked the tying PAT and returned it 89 yards for a defensive two-point conversion. So instead of 17-17, it's 19-16, and the deflated USM defense immediately gives up an 80-yard touchdown on four plays to ice the game. Close enough to knock Cal from the BCS in favor of Texas (uh, Vince Young's coming out party? Cal gets clobbered by Texas Tech? We're all happy about it now, huh?), but moral victories are no consolation.

It might sound odd, but the quarterback who most impressed SMQ against Southern Miss was Houston's Kevin Kolb, who shredded the defense in Brady-like fashion on a Thursday night in October 2004. Houston runs a lot of motion and Texas Tech type stuff, and receivers are skittering around everywhere, causing plenty of confusion. And Kolb hit 'em all. He hit 'em right. He hit 'em left. He hit 'em in the middle. He hit 'em short. He hit 'em deep. He hit 'em on screens. 19 of 36 for 345 yards and one touchdown doesn't sound like much, but trust SMQ, at the time, it was incredibly frustrating. The guy was sensational.

That game was the start of the proud D's long downhill slide to mediocrity, or worse; it has been noticeably awful on a consistent basis ever since where it never was before. That game against Houston is a very firm marker.

Oh, and USM won it. In overtime, 35-29. Furious comeback, defensive guts to stop Kold and Co. at the end of regulation and in OT when it hadn't come close, and hadn't forced a turnover, all game. Makes no sense, but true.
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3:55 PM

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And don't let the name fool ya - second guessing the phenomenal athletic feats and split-second decisions of college kids under extreme physical duress is for every day of the week.

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