Louisville, USM set to renew rivalry tonight

Published 11:50 am Tuesday, December 21, 2010

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As friends and former colleagues, Southern Miss’ Larry Fedora and Louisville’s Charlie Strong have admired one another’s work for years.

The coaches in tonight’s Beef ‘O’Brady’s Bowl worked together as assistants at Florida for two seasons, building a tight relationship they’ll put aside when the Golden Eagles and Cardinals take the field.

Fedora has guided Southern Miss (8-4) to a bowl game in each of his three seasons at the Conference USA school.

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Louisville (6-6), which left C-USA for the Big East five years ago, is aiming to finish Strong’s first season as a head coach with the Cardinals’ first winning record since 2006.

“I knew he would be a great head coach when he got that opportunity. He’s showing that right now,” said Fedora, who along with Strong was part of former Florida coach Ron Zook’s staff in Gainesville in 2003 and 2004.

Fedora was the Gators’ offensive coordinator and Strong ran the defense that second season.

“Neat situation to compete against him,” the Southern Miss coach added. “To sit in a room with a guy, have one common goal and that’s to win, do all the things it takes, overcome adversity, to see what kind of character that man has, says a lot about somebody.”

Tonight figures to remind the coaches of the days when they used to go at each other in practice.

Southern Miss is averaging just over 458 yards total offense and has scored at least 31 points in 10 of 12 games.

Louisville’s defense ranks 11th nationally while yielding 18.7 points per game.

It’s the ninth consecutive bowl trip for the Golden Eagles, who appeared in the New Orleans Bowl each of the past two seasons under Fedora.

“When they established this bowl, our AD and I talked about it,” Fedora said. “We’re not playing for a championship, this is the bowl we want to be in. Come to Florida, be in the warm weather, everything the beach brings. … Get to play a great opponent. Be indoors. Really a perfect venue.”