Hawaii Bowl is swan song for Southern Mississippi coach

Southern Mississippi coach Larry Fedora signs footballs after a news conference Tuesday. He coached his final game Saturday before heading to North Carolina.



HONOLULU — As if being 5,500 miles from Hattiesburg, Miss., and having Waikiki beach as a backyard wasn’t enough, Conference USA champion Southern Mississippi had to deal with more distractions.

The 22nd-ranked Golden Eagles (11-2) faced Western Athletic Conference runner-up Nevada (7-5) in the Hawaii Bowl on Saturday night in what was the final game under coach Larry Fedora.

“It’s going to be tough. There’s a piece of my heart and soul in this football team,” said Fedora, who is leaving after four seasons to lead North Carolina. “I deeply care about each and every one of those kids. ... But I do know, they’re going to look back at this season and say we won however many games, a conference championship and we went to Hawaii. That’s what they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”

Southern Miss won a school-record 11 games this season en route to capturing its fifth C-USA title by upsetting Houston 49-28 in the conference championship game. It was the Golden Eagles’ first 10-win season since 1988.

Despite the record year, Davis said the team isn’t done yet as Southern Miss makes its 10th consecutive postseason appearance and is looking to snap a two-bowl losing streak.

Fedora said his team isn’t letting down after its big win over Houston.

“They understand what it takes. They understand how important it is. We’re not playing another game. We’re making history at Southern Miss.”

Fedora is being replaced by South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, who was introduced in Hattiesburg while the team was in Honolulu.