On Saturday, the “Battle of the Bell” rivalry revived during the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl when Southern Miss and Tulane hit the field. The rivalry initiated in 1979 as both programs met every season for the first twenty-seven straight years. The schools are separated by a little more than 100 miles apart; therefore, it’s an intense and local rivalry that the fans enjoy.
However, due to conference realignment, Saturday’s game became the first meeting in over nine years for the two schools. Southern Miss Head coach Jay Hopson talked before the game about the rivalry between the two programs. “I had my first job at Tulane, and the two schools are right next to each other. It has always been a fun game for the fans. Local games are fun.” The Golden Eagles came into Saturday, winning six consecutive games against the Green Wave. However, it was the Tulane Green Wave that broke the string and eventually rang the bell by defeating Southern Miss 30-13 in the 2020 Armed Forces Bowl.
As the clock hit five and a half minutes in the first quarter, Southern Miss quarterback Jack Abraham ran it outside to the end zone to put the Golden Eagles up 13-0. It was at that point; Southern Miss outgained Tulane 164-5 with Abraham throwing for 142 yards, and the Green Wave crowd became silent. However, Tulane started to gain momentum slowly with a couple of field goals in the second quarter, cutting the Golden Eagles lead to 13-6 at halftime. Once halftime hit, Tulane turned on the jets and outlasted Southern Miss. In the third quarter, the Green Wave outgained the Golden Eagles 214-49 along with a takeaway as Tulane outscored Southern Miss 24-0 in the third, taking a 30-13 lead and ending the game by the same score.
After the two Golden Eagles scoring drives, Tulane’s defense forced eight punts, two interceptions, and two turnovers by downs. In that span, Tulane outgained Southern Miss 374-195.
Green Wave head coach Willie Fritz talked after the game about the message he gave his players at halftime, “A lot of bad words. We got after them. We don’t want to go out like this. I’m tough on these kids sometimes, and they responded.”
Tulane’s defense held Jack Abraham to 25 yards after the two scoring drives. The Golden Eagles made a quarterback change at halftime due to a shoulder injury to Abraham, replacing him with Tate Whatley. Whatley finished the day completing nine of twenty-two for 134 yards and the two second-half interceptions. Tulane’s senior quarterback Justin McMillian had a successful and conservative afternoon. The Armed Forces Bowl MVP completed thirteen of eighteen passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns.
McMillian was quick to give credit to his teammates after the game and point out a historic win for the Tulane football program, “It’s not the same team that we were last year, this team won two bowl games straight. We made history with this team this year.”
In the 2018 College Football season, Tulane knocked off the Ragin Cajuns of Louisiana Lafayette 41-24 in the Cure Bowl.
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Green Wave while Southern Miss finished the college football season on a three-game losing streak of their own. For fans curious about the next meeting, the “Battle of the Bell” renews again on Saturday, September 24, 2022, at Tulane.