But the Golden Eagles’ 38-29 victory on Nov. 13, 1982, was the first time they had beaten an Alabama team coached by Bear Bryant.
“This is the greatest victory in Southern Miss history,” said USM’s Jim Carmody, the first rookie head coach to beat Bryant.
Quarterback Reggie Collier led the sports moment judged the greatest in USM history, rushing for 81 yards and three touchdowns to spoil Bryant’s final home game. USM’s win also ended the Crimson Tide’s home winning streak that covered 57 games and nearly 20 years.
“It’s not a very good feeling,” Bryant said of his team’s first loss at Bryant-Denny Stadium since Oct. 12, 1963, when Florida won 10-6.
“I took a long look back as we walked off. We haven’t had this experience too many times and I’m thankful for that.”
USM jumped on the Tide for 21 points in the first quarter and held off a dogged second-half rally that brought the Tide to within six points early in the fourth quarter.
The win marked a sweet homecoming for Sam Dejarnette, who transferred to USM from Auburn. He rushed for 152 yards and two touchdowns, including five plays after Ricky Moore fumbled on the Tide’s first play of the second half to give USM a 35-14 lead.
But Alabama players credited Collier with being the catalyst. USM scored on its first four possessions, touchdown runs of 22, 8 and 5 yards to give the Eagles a 28-7 lead in the second quarter.
“I can’t explain it, I just don’t know what to say,” said Tide linebacker Robbie Jones, who had six tackles. “Collier, Collier, Collier. That’s all I have to explain it.”
The highest praise came from Bryant.
“That Collier’s just a super athlete,” he told the Hattiesburg (Miss.) American. “He just did a super job. He makes it a one-man game. In crucial situations when he has to have yardage, he can take the ball himself and get it. It shouldn’t be anything new to us. We’ve seen him do it before.”
In 1981, Collier led USM to a last-second field goal to tie Alabama at 13.
“Football is the ultimate team sport and there are 10 other people on the field doing their jobs well so that you can succeed too,” Collier said. “If they were a teammate of mine then they should feel that this is a part of them as well.”
On the cover and above: Alabama’s Bear Bryant and Jim Carmody of Southern Miss shake hands after the Golden Eagles’ 38-29 victory in 1982. (Courtesy University of Southern Mississippi Archives)
THIS WEEK’S GREATEST MOMENTS
• Monday: Saint Louis and Samford
• Tuesday: Sam Houston State and Seattle
• Wednesday: South Florida and Southeast Missouri State
• Thursday: Southeastern Louisiana and SIU Edwardsville
• Friday: SMU and Southern Mississippi