Eagles endure wild year

Published 12:12 pm Friday, December 10, 2010

JACKSON — The 2010 season for Southern Miss was a wild rollercoaster ride of great wins, gut-wrenching losses and tragedy.

Hopefully the final chapter of this season offers a happy ending, as the Golden Eagles earned a bowl bid to the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl against Big East foe Louisville in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Dec. 21.

The off-campus shooting of Southern Miss players Martez Smith, Dedderick Jones and Tim Green cast a cloud over the season as the Golden Eagles battled for a possible berth in the Conference USA championship game. The players were injured after the Golden Eagles returned home after their biggest win of the season at Central Florida, 24-14.

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The shooting left Smith paralyzed from the waist down. Jones and Green are expected to make a full recovery. All three have been released from Forrest General Hospital and could accompany the team to the bowl game.

For third-year Golden Eagles coach Larry Fedora, it was something he had never experienced.

“To experience such a tragedy as a team, you’re never, ever prepared for that,” Fedora said during last week’s Conerly Trophy presentation. “I just have to credit our players with a tremendous job of dealing with their emotions and then getting their focus back and winning the next game.”

The Golden Eagles were able to deal with the aftermath of the shooting, the visits to see their injured teammates and still found a way to smash Houston 59-41 to lock up an eighth win. The victory moved them up in the Conference USA bowl pecking order.