Southern Miss football

Southern Miss Golden Eagles: The 1997 C-USA Champs

As Conference USA loses Southern Miss and other teams to the Sunbelt Conference in 2023, here is a look back 25 years ago at the Golden Eagles 1997 football season (season 2 of C-USA).

Southern Miss

conference USA champion:

Southern Miss (6-0)

The standings:

  • Southern Miss  9-3
  • Cincinnati  8-4
  • Tulane  7-4
  • East Carolina  5-6
  • Memphis  4-7
  • Houston  3-8
  • Louisville  1-10

southern Miss C-USA stat leaders/Awards:

  • Rushing Yards: Harold Shaw, Southern Mississippi, 1045 yards, 16 TDs
  • Receiving Yards: Sherrod Gideon, Southern Mississippi, 54 rec, 1008 yards, 9 TDs
  • Interceptions: Patrick Surtain, 6 INTs
  • C-USA Coach of the Year: Jeff Bower, Southern Mississippi
  • C-USA Defensive Player of the Year: DB Patrick Surtain, Southern Mississippi; 2nd Team All-American (Football News, Sporting News).

bowl game appearance-Liberty Bowl

The Golden Eagles racked up 516 yards of total offense in a 41-7 rout of the Pitt Panthers in front of 50,000+ fans at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

WR Sherrod Gideon hauled in three touchdown passes from QB Lee Roberts and the defense recorded three touchdowns of their own.

Southern Miss outscored Pitt 27-0 in the 2nd half. The 34 point margin of victory was the largest in Liberty Bowl history. Gideon was named the game’s MVP.

Final ap top 25 rankings:

Southern Miss finished the season ranked at #19.

1997 Southern Miss football Notes:

The Golden Eagles were led by a stingy defense that ranked in the Top 30 in the country:

  • #18 in Total Defense (314 yards per game allowed).
  • #14 in Rushing Defense (107 yards per game allowed).
  • #22 in Scoring Defense (18 points per game allowed).
  • #11 Pass Efficiency Defense ( allowed opposing QB’s just 52.6% completion pct.).
  • Tied for 9th in Turnovers Gained (31 takeaways).

The ’97 version of the Nasty Bunch was manned by such standouts as Lytrell Pollard, who led the team with 114 tackles, Patrick Surtain (6 INTs), Marchant Kenney (106 tackles, 13 TFLs), Adalius Thomas, Perry Phenix, and Terrance Parrish, to name a few.

RB Harold Shaw led C-USA in several categories, including:

  • Rushing yards
  • Rushing Touchdowns
  • Plays from Scrimmage
  • Rushing Attempts
  • Yards from Scrimmage

Shaw was 2nd in the conference in scoring with 96 points.

Key Games of 1997

  • 34-13 win vs Tulane: The Golden Eagles intercepted Tulane QB Shaun King (C-USA Offensive Player of the Year in 1997) three times, with DB Patrick Surtain picking off two himself.
  • 24-17 win vs #24 Cincinnati: USM scored 17 points to take the lead, and once again it was DB Patrick Surtain making the big play, intercepting a pass at the goal-line to secure the victory for the Golden Eagles.
  • 33-0 win vs Houston: The Golden Eagle defense played lights out. They allowed just 5 yards rushing and 147 total yards for the game.
  • 42-18 win vs Memphis: Sherrod Gideon set the school record for receptions in a season, and caught 6 balls for 141 yards in the win over the Tigers.

The Golden Eagles’ three losses came at the hands of SEC teams: a 21-6 loss to the defending national champion Florida Gators; a 27-13 loss to Alabama; and a 44-20 loss to the Peyton Manning-led Tennessee Volunteers.

1997 Southern miss All-Conference USA Selections

1st Team:

  • DL Robert Brown
  • WR Sherrod Gideon
  • OL Kasey Keith
  • LB Marchant Kenney
  • DB Perry Phenix
  • RB Harold Shaw
  • DB Patrick Surtain
  • DE Adalius Thomas

2nd Team:

  • DL Jamal Alexander
  • KR Eric Booth
  • TE Terry Hardy
  • OL Henry McClendon
  • QB Lee Roberts

Freshman All-American

  • John Nix

The 1997 Southern Miss Golden Eagles were arguably the deepest team with regards to talent in school history.


Material for this article was sourced from;; and Image Credit:






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