November 25, 2013

UAB and Southern Miss Square Off In Last Game of Season

Southern Miss will square off against a familiar foe this Saturday in Legion Field. What was once a series of dominance by the Golden Eagles has now turned into a one-sided affair as USM faces UAB in the last game of the season for both teams.

Todd Monken's team is looking to snatch an elusive win this weekend against a program Southern Miss knows all too well. The Blazers and Eagles have teed it up on the gridiron 14 times in the schools' history, with USM holding a 9-4 advantage in the series. UAB, however, has won four straight dating back to 2009.

Southern Miss has failed to get a win over the Blazers since Larry Fedora's squad hung 70 on them in 2008 - a victory that vaulted the Golden Eagles to four straight wins and an invitation to the New Orleans Bowl. Since that time, the school in Birmingham has been an enormous thorn in USM's side. UAB kept Southern Miss from a Sugar Bowl bid by upsetting the Eagles in 2011 and continued USM's winless streak last season with a 27-19, come-from-behind victory in Hattiesburg.

While Southern Miss lacks a true traditional rivalry, this matchup is about as close as one can get. UAB head coach Garrick Magee agrees.

"It's definitely a rivalry. Last year, I didn't quite know because I hadn't been through the process of the game. At this point, we're not hiding," Magee said. "This is a rivalry. We are totally committed to the war that it's going to be. I am going to be charged up personally and I think our kids will be charged up as well."

The same can be said of Monken's squad, which is desperately searching for motivation amidst a second consecutive winless season. But aside from the obvious negatives, the Golden Eagles will be fired up to attempt to end the losing streak and beat a team that has gotten the best of them in the recent past.

"We put Middle Tennessee to rest yesterday and look forward to going back on the road at UAB to play a team that's pretty similar to us," Monken said. "They've been banged up, played a lot of young guys. (Head Coach Garrick) McGee has done a heck of a job trying to change the culture there and recruit his kind of players, players who mirror his temperament."

Both teams have combined for just two wins on the season but none of that will matter when foot meets leather Saturday afternoon. Winning the final game of the season is one of the most important things a program can accomplish, and it will be a feat these two rivals will fight tooth and nail to achieve.

"I am worried about this game. Every game is different. Just two years ago, (Southern Miss was) the conference champions," Magee said. "We are going to prepare. When the ball is kicked off, nobody knows or cares about the records."

Monken was more subdued in his approach to the last contest of the year, saying he doesn't think he needs to address what it means to his players. To him, it should be understood.

"I'm not sure that I have to address that it's the last game but we will address what it means," he said. "Last week it was the last game for the seniors at home. This week it's their last game ever in a Southern Miss jersey."

When the opening whistle sounds Saturday, UAB and Southern Miss will enter the battlefield. It won't be a nationally televised game and fan attendance will be sparse, but this game may be more significant than any other on the year. When the Blazers and Eagles take the field, it's always a hard-hitting affair. UAB plans on continuing its recent dominance of the series, and Magee added a little fuel to the fire at his Monday press conference.

"We haven't lost to these guys since I've been here," Magee said. "We take a tremendous amount of pride in that. We just want to continue that and go out on a great note."

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