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KENNEDY: Don’t push the panic button on Southern Miss football just yet

Jackson Kennedy

Today’s 21-3 loss to Tulane was less than fortunate, as they often are after a rivalry loss, especially at home. Tensions and frustrations flared from the Southern Miss faithful on social media and at the stadium, with fans truncating their woes towards the sideline. There is an understandable level of frustration – it is hard to grasp losing to a team 21-3 that the Golden Eagles just beat last year 27-24, and last year’s Tulane team was arguably better, while Southern Miss was arguably worse. However, there is something to keep in mind: this is only game three.

Calling for head coach Will Hall’s job or saying the season is over is baffling and far too reactionary. There are points to be made about Frank Gore Jr.’s lack of reps not making sense in weeks one and two, and there are valid critiques about the play calling not seeming to adjust to this staunch defensive line Tulane brought out Saturday afternoon at The Rock. However, saying that Southern Miss football will never succeed, saying the Golden Eagles should deemphasize football and invest time and money into baseball and basketball, or saying that Hall should be fired all are blown far out of proportion.

Former Southern Miss head coach Jeff Bower was 3-7-1 in his year three with losses to Memphis State, Southeastern Louisiana, and, wildly enough, Tulane. He became the greatest head coach in Southern Miss Athletics history with time, recruiting, and support. With football that does not get the support of hundreds of millions of dollars annually from TV companies and overly wealthy boosters, the success of Southern Miss football is a two-way street. Fans must attend every game they can support by staying the entire game and making home games feel like home games. Coaches need to put a product on the field worth coming to see. Hall is still working on making holding up his end of the bargain a weekly affair. However, support from the Golden Eagle faithful will go a long way in helping this team reach a point where success is a regular occurrence, and days like Saturday are extreme outliers.

The game of comparison is something that needs more context as well. One must look at what the reason for that jump is to point to programs such as Tulane and South Alabama for surpassing Southern Miss in football prowess. Tulane and South Alabama had easier rebuilds than Hall is still working on, but they also have something Southern Miss needs: money. Tulane is an old-money, wealthy school in New Orleans, and South Alabama is still an up-and-coming athletics program with a school that breeds doctors galore. There is less money than Southern Miss, which mainly produces teachers, psychologists, and nurses.

There are things that the Golden Eagle faithful can do to alleviate all of these woes, however, and they will be detailed below.

First on the list, come to every home game you can. These players deserve your support, and if week one’s victory at Alcorn and last year’s bowl game win over Rice show anything, Southern Miss players play best when the stands are packed. The wins will start coming soon, and over the next few years, each season will get better and better, but Southern Miss Football needs your support and needs it now. The way the crowd has gotten into it in the past gives examples that this can be one of the more hostile environments in the country, and when M. M. Roberts Stadium is packed and feisty, few teams stand a chance against the Golden Eagles.

Next, support this team however you can. As mentioned, with the lack of money, there is a fantastic way to alleviate this through the most blue-collar-Southern-Miss-Grit-type-way: the To The Top Collective. Southern Miss fans can send money to the collective to help recruit talent and keep talent in Hattiesburg. If that does not sound like something you can do, support the players by buying a jersey.

If financial support is not what you want to do, and you are already coming to the home games, support the team with your energy. Immerse yourself in the culture and traditions of Southern Miss. Show up to Eagle Walk, stand at the end of it, and high-five players to show them why they put it out on the line every week. Cheer during the games, and make this an environment recruits want to play in. Be a real supporter, not a fairweather fan. No one has ever said being a Southern Miss fan would be easy, but that is why so many love this university so much.

In closing, if you want to see success, support the team. This means, unless you are doing all you can to support this team, do not say this team isn’t doing all they can, and definitely don’t call for jobs if you, as a fan, are not doing yours. There are far better days ahead, and the season is just getting started, so instead of hitting the panic button, strap up your boots because it is an uphill climb, but it is indeed a fun one. There is plenty to be optimistic about with Hall’s bunch, and it is essential to look for hope in times like this.

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