Eagles get clutch win over Cards

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 24, 1999

Credit the 14th-ranked Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles with clutch play when it counts most. Like last Saturday in Louisville when their 30-27 victory over the Cardinals spelled an automatic Conference USA title and Liberty Bowl berth.

Coach Jeff Bower’s hustling battlers knew they’d be No. 2 in the league if they lost to a good Louisville team that would, conversely, be C-USA champs and Liberty Bowl-bound.

Enter a clutch USM taking its cues from a clutch head coach. It wasn’t easy; wasn’t supposed to be. But when the going kept being too tough, the tough (USM) got going. The USM-Louisville last half was as good a football game as was seen Saturday.

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Ole Miss and Mississippi State couldn’t cut the mustard for some reason, and we know, of course, that the (two) reasons were Georgia and Arkansas, respectively.

Georgia is good just like Ole Miss, but the Rebels allowed the Bulldogs to keep the football &uot;all afternoon,&uot; and good teams take advantage of a favor like that. State’s Bullies likewise pretty well roughed-up the Razorbacks all Saturday afternoon, gained over 300 yards, and lost with three field goals.

Know something, though, that doesn’t mean that coach David Cutcliffe’s Rebels and coach Jackie Sherrill’s Bulldogs aren’t still bowl candidates. They might not be in the &uot;big&uot; bowl picture, and for sure today’s loser can’t think big. Maybe &uot;little,&uot; though. Meantime, a possibly outstanding Thanksgiving Day (night) college football game awaits.

Now for my State-Ole Miss Thanksgiving prediction: In my so-many-times-wrong opinion Ole Miss is a mite better balanced, and my unsure guess is that the Rebels will triumph by something like 20-17. The game is a toss-up you know. And an Arkansas team that’s young but steadily maturing, should beat an LSU team today that could be chompin’ at the bits.

Georgia will upset Georgia Tech, I’d just as well throw in. The Dawgs are still very talented (see recruiting) and physical. Tech’s favored, though.

Nice guys, they say, finish last. But that handle doesn’t literally fit ousted LSU coach Gerry Dinardo, a nice guy if I ever met one. He was 26-9-1 his first three seasons. Fell short then in recruiting. I like coach Dinardo.

HURRIED HASH…Natchez basketball fans will remember Natchez Cathedral star Gerald (Tooley) Martello – that he was a Mississippi All-Starter for the Greenies two years in 1953-54. Also that he played at USM before transferring to Centenary College two years…Well, Tooley’s daughter Katrina &uot;Binky&uot; Martello as a 6-foot basketball star who was named Northwest Florida Player of the Year as a senior last basketball season at Jay High School in the Florida Panhandle.

…For the second time in her career, I might add, and she was a four-time All-State selection, and Jay High starter since seventh grade. Tooley’s tall and talented daughter is noted for her clutch rebounding and scoring, much like her dad of 1953-54 CHS basketbal fame…Did I say where she will go on a basketball scholarship? Well, it’s the University of Alabama. &uot;I always wanted to go to Alabama,&uot; Binky said upon signing…And I just have to quip the obvious: Like father like daughter.

…WALTER PAYTON was indeed &uot;Sweetness,&uot; and I know one good reason: His Mom…I have a wonderful memory of an interview I guess more than 20 years ago with his Mother in Columbia, his hometown. I determined that &uot;everyone&uot; in Columbia loved her. She was a sweet lady, but I learned for sure from others that she was indeed sweetness personified. Then I thought: what a sweet and kind lady, Walter’s Mom.